Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St. Andrew's Christmas Novena






















I'm usually a pretty big Scrooge this time of year. Maybe it's from hearing Christmas music blaring on the radio for an entire month already. Honestly, if I hear "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" one more time, I just may throw something at the radio! Or, maybe it's all the stress of decorating, baking, shopping and trying to stay within a budget (I never succeed!) But this year, for some unknown reason, I am feeling a bit more joyous. Maybe it's because I'm not pressuring myself to shop, bake cookies or decorate until it gets closer to Christmas. Maybe it's because I'm not forcing myself to send out Christmas cards. Could it possibly be because I have decided to make this Advent more prayerful, more quiet, more penitential?

I'm not sure, because although I had decided that this year I would forgo drinks and treats until Christmas, here I am eating a piece of my boss' store-bought birthday cake, while I salivate over the thought of how delicious my own homemade Walnut Mocha birthday cake, lovingly prepared by my husband on the 45th anniversary of my birth, will taste tomorrow. It's not even two days in to Advent and I have already caved to temptation with the anticipation of even more caving to come shortly. Sigh... But, I am not going to beat myself up about it. I am going to get back up on my donkey and continue the Advent ride, working to make my heart not just an empty space where Christ can be born, but a warm and inviting place where he will eagerly long to reside even more than I look forward to my birthday cake.

Although this glutton may frequently fail in her attempts to fast and abstain from goodies, I have the holy St. Andrew to thank for my success in making the season more prayerful. The reason I thank St. Andrew is because today, on his feast day, I begin the annual St. Andrew's Christmas Novena. It's one of my favorite prayerful traditions that goes back to my childhood days when my family and I would pray it after our evening rosary, from November 30th until Christmas Eve. The lovely words of the prayer make it so easy to conjure up an image in my mind of that cold and fearful night when our Lord was born.

Although it is promised that by repeating the prayer fifteen times each day, the one praying will obtain their request, I can only remember one time in my life that my intention was quickly and positively heard and answered, but what a glorious answer that was! It was back in 1990 when Operation Desert Storm had just been declared on November 29th. That year, I prayed for peace and a quick end to the conflict in which the United States had become involved. How thrilled I was that it was all over by February 27th, 1991, when President Bush called an end to the war! But I am sure that in many small and unknown ways, my St. Andrew's Novenas have been heard and relished by the Lord, whether or not I was aware of any answer.

Thank you, St. Andrew, for helping me to keep a spirit of Advent every year, even if it is only for the short time that it takes me to pray your novena!

St. Andrew's Christmas Novena

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of our Savior, Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Spiritual Christmas Crib

My family and I build a spiritual Christmas Crib each Advent. We begin our days by individually reading the plan for the day and then do our best to live it. At dinner time, after we light the Advent Wreath, we review the day's plan and share a discussion about how successful we were in our attempts to build part of Jesus' crib.



A SPIRITUAL CHRISTMAS CRIB


The following directions show you how to build a
spiritual crib in your heart for Christ.
Use it to put Christ into your Christmas in a real,
living way.

Start on December 1. Read the thought indicated
about Christ's first crib.
Practice it during the day. Do this daily during
December and make your heart a worthy crib for
Christ on Christmas Day.

DEC.1 - THE STABLE
Frequently during the day offer your heart to the
little Infant Jesus. Ask Him to make it His home. -
Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and
pure.

DEC.2 - THE ROOF
See that the roof of the stable is in good
condition, so that the Infant Jesus is protected
from rain and snow. This you will do by carefully
avoiding every uncharitable remark. --Jesus,
teach me to love my neighbor as myself.

DEC.3 - CREVICES
Carefully stop every crevice in the walls of the
stable, so that the wind and cold may not enter
there. Guard your senses against temptations. Guard
especially your ears against sinful
conversations.--Jesus, help me to keep
temptations out of my heart.

DEC.4 - COBWEBS
Clean the cobwebs from your spiritual crib.
Diligently remove from your heart every
inordinate desire of being praised. Renew this
intention at least three times today. --My Jesus,
I want to please You in all I do today.

DEC.5 - FENCE
Build a fence about the crib of your heart by
keeping a strict watch over your eyes, especially
at prayer. --Sweet Jesus, I long to see You.

DEC.6 - MANGER
Fix the best and warmest corner of your heart
for the manger of Jesus. You will do so by
abstaining from what you like most in the line of
comfort and amusement. --Mary, use these
sacrifices to prepare my heart for Jesus in
Holy Communion.

DEC.7 - HAY
Supply the manger of your heart with hay, by
overcoming all feelings of pride, anger or envy.
Jesus, teach me to know and correct my greatest
sins.

DEC.8 - SOFT STRAW
Provide your manger with soft straw by
performing little acts of mortification; for
instance, bear the cold without complaints; or sit
and stand erect. --Dear Jesus, Who suffered so
much for me, let me suffer for love of You.

DEC.9 - SWADDLING CLOTHES
Prepare these for the Divine Infant by folding
your hands when you pray, and praying slowly and
thoughtfully. --Jesus let me love you more and
more.

DEC.10 - BLANKETS
Provide the manger with soft warm
blankets. Avoid harsh and angry words; be kind and
gentle to all. --Jesus, help me to be meek and
humble like You.

DEC.11 - FUEL
Bring fuel to the crib of Jesus. Give up your own
will; obey your superiors cheerfully and
promptly. --Jesus, let me do Your will in all
things

DEC.12-WATER
Bring fresh clean water to the crib. Avoid every
untruthful word and every deceitful act.
--Dearest Mary, obtain for me true contrition for
my sins.

DEC.13 - PROVISIONS
Bring a supply of food to the crib. Deprive
yourself of some food at mealtime or candy as a
treat. --Jesus, be my strength and nourishment.

DEC.14 - LIGHT
See that the crib has sufficient light. Be
neat and orderly about your person; keep
everything in its place in your room. --Jesus, be
the life and light of my soul.

DEC.15 - FIRE
Take care to have the crib of your heart warmed
by a cozy fire. Be grateful to God for the love He
has shown us in becoming man; behave with grateful
respect towards your parents and relatives. --
Jesus, how can I return Your love; how can I show
my gratitude to You?

DEC.16 - THE OX
Lead the ox to the crib. Obey cheerfully without
making excuses and without asking "why." --I will
obey for love of You, Jesus.

DEC.17 - THE DONKEY
Bring the donkey to the crib. Offer to the Divine
Infant your bodily strength; use it in the service
of others. --Jesus, accept my service of love;
I offer it for those who do not love You.

DEC.18 - GIFTS
Gather some presents for the Divine Infant and
His Blessed Mother. Give alms for the poor and say
an extra decade of the rosary. --Come, Jesus, to
accept my gifts and to take possession of my heart.

DEC.19 - LAMBS
Strive to bring some little lambs, meek and
and patient. Do not murmer or complain.
--Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make
my heart like Yours.

DEC.20 - SHEPHERDS
Invite the shepherds to pay homage to our newborn
King. Imitate their watchfulness; stress in your
speech and thoughts the idea that Christmas is
important because Jesus will be born again in
you.
Jesus, teach me to love You above all things.

DEC.21 - THE KEY
Provide the stable with a key to keep out
thieves. Exclude from your heart every sinful
thought, every rash judgment --Dear Jesus, close
my heart to all that hurts you.

DEC.22 - ANGELS
Invite the angels to adore God with you.
Cheerfully obey the inspirations of
your guardian angel and of your conscience. --
Holy Guardian Angel, never let me forget that You
are with me always.

DEC.23 - ST. JOSEPH
Accompany Saint Joseph from door to door. Learn
from him silently and patiently to bear refusals
and disappointments. Open wide your heart and beg
Him to enter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
--Saint Joseph, help me to prepare for a worthy
Christmas Communion.

DEC.24 - THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Go meet your Blessed Mother. Lead her to the
manger of your heart and beg her to lay the
Divine Infant in it. Shorten your chats and
telephone conversations and spend more time today
thinking of Jesus and Mary and Joseph.
--Come, dear Jesus, Come; my heart belongs to You.

"Devotions in Preparation for the Coming of the
Christchild, and at the Crib, from Christmas to
Purification"

by Rev. Frederic Nelson, published by Marian
House, Powers Lake, ND 58773

I Wish We'd All Been Ready

I love this song by DC Talk. Every time I hear today's Gospel reading from Matthew 24:37-44, this song runs through my mind.



Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vigil for all Nascent Human Life






















What a blessing it was to honor the request of Pope Benedict XVI by joining in a worldwide vigil of prayer for all nascent human life! In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee the gorgeous St. Anthony Parish had graciously hosted the Evening Prayer, Rosary and Benediction with Archbishop Listecki. I was so pleased to see that the large church was packed with those who wished to join their voices with their brothers and sisters in Christ in one united prayer for those who are unable to speak for themselves.

In Archbishop Listecki's homily, the following words resounded in my heart and I will forever remember them. He asked: "Why do we do this? We are people of love. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us and we share that love with our unborn brothers and sisters."

He closed the service with these words: "Our Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory, and now we must engage the battle!" How strange it seems that the victory is already won, yet we continue to fight. Yet, how right it is! For until everyone accepts the victory of Christ, until everyone defends the innocent lives just waiting to born like Christ waited to be born from the womb of the Virgin after her resounding "yes!" we must continue the efforts without tiring, to bring the justice of life to those sweet beginnings of new life. What better time to unite our efforts for those who wait to be born from the wombs of their mothers than during this season of Advent while we wait for Christ to be born once again in the hearts of all the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stay, Just a Little Bit Longer












"Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer
Please, please, please say you will
Say you will

Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer
Oh please, please stay just a little bit more"

~Jackson Browne~Stay~


It's no secret that I have a great admiration for priests; those good and holy men who sacrifice so much to raise their spiritual children in the faith and inspire them to dedicate their souls to the love of God and His church. It takes a very, very special person to give their all, to work tirelessly and endlessly with very little earthly reward, just to answer God's persistent call to the the service of the Church as a priest.

I want to do all I can to support our good and holy priests as well as those who struggle and suffer through their vocation. Last summer, I found out about a wonderful lay apostolate called the "Monthly Prayer Request for Priests." Seeing that there was no such apostolate offered in Milwaukee, I just knew that God was calling me to begin this effort to support the priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with the heartfelt prayers of the laity who rely so heavily on our priests to bring us the sacraments, to support us in our failures and sufferings, to encourage us to remain faithful and to be with us in the most important sacramental moments of our lives, but, most of all to bring Christ to us in the Eucharist and to be Christ for us in the sacrifice of their lives.

So, last August, after much research and prayer, the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests was established in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with the support of the Archdiocesan Vocations Office at the Seminary of St. Francis de Sales. I am so pleased that the Lord has seen fit to use me in this way and am honored and humbled to give my all to this apostolate.

And perhaps it's because I feel so strongly about this work, that the news of priests who leave their vocation seems to hit me like a punch in the stomach. In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we have recently lost two very good and fairly new (less than five years as priests) men who have decided with very little forewarning to the parishes they served, that they needed to take a leave to discern their future. Although it's not the worst thing in the world, especially compared to the horrendous distress caused by abusive priests, something in me just feels so hurt by a priest who decides he can't continue in his vocation. I guess I could best describe it as how a child of divorced parents would feel. This vow to the priesthood was supposed to last forever. What could have happened that would pull a priest away from this life-long commitment to the church? I can't help but wonder what the church or the parish might have done to keep the priest in his vocation for a little while longer. What could we as a church have done differently that might have kept these priests from leaving? And do you suppose that if they had just stayed for just a little bit longer, they might have decided to stay forever?

As the mother of a teen discerning a call to the priesthood, I can't help but worry. Am I wrong to encourage my son to a vocation to the priesthood? Will he also want to leave after a short time? Is it normal for a diocese to lose a few priests each year? Are there any statistics kept on this, I wonder? And why is it that this shakes my faith so much? I suppose that most of these questions don't have any easy answers and maybe they don't have any answers at all. All I can do for my part is to continue to blindly follow the Lord, to obediently live my faith and to continue to pray and to encourage others to pray for those who have left the priesthood, for those who are considering leaving and especially for those who continue to press on regardless of the difficulties they suffer in their priesthood.

Prayer for Priests by Fr William Doyle, SJ

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar, "This is my Body, this is my Blood," grant them to apply to themselves: "I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another."

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Year of the Mass!!!!


The Deacon's Bench has consistently been a great source of Catholic News and entertainment for me. Today, I was thrilled to read a story about my all-time favorite and beloved Archbishop Dolan (so thrilled that he's heading up the USCCB!) The best part of the story was that he is calling next year THE YEAR OF THE MASS!

"He also turned his attention to what people are hearing in the pulpit, and the news that he's declared next year the "Year of the Mass":
He said he had heard complaints from Catholic laypeople on his pastoral council that although they love their priests, the quality of their preaching is poor. Archbishop Dolan said he hoped to reinvigorate Mass attendance by declaring 2011 the "Year of the Mass.""
Brilliant!!!! (And don't you just LOVE this picture! It's my favorite of him!)

I'm looking forward to attending Pope Benedict's Worldwide Vigil for Life, also a brilliant idea. Here in Milwaukee, Archbishop Listecki will be presiding at a special service on November 27th. My husband's supervisor received a message on his i-pod about the upcoming vigil. He sarcastically told Paul that it sounds great, "Just a bunch of people holding hands and singing Kumbaya." I am so proud of Paul because he stood up for the faith and for life to his supervisor, which isn't easy to do. Also, how cool is it that i-pod would promote the vigil! If you click on the "Yes! for Benedict" picture on the sidebar, it will lead you to a thank you note that you can sign to let our amazing Pope know how pleased you are with this initiative.

On a sad note, here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee we have lost a long-time beloved priest, Fr. Redemptus Short, OCD, who was the spiritual director of The Eucharistic All-Night Vigil Lay Apostolate since 1965. He was always gentle and loving, constantly reminding everyone of his deep love for them. I only had the honor of speaking with him once, during confession, and his words to me left a deep impression upon my heart. I was worried that I was writing out of pride and without knowing me or anything about my writing, he encouraged me to continue to write. He sat silent, as though deep in thought about my worries, and then pointed at me and said, "You keep writing. You're drawing souls to Christ." Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful

There's so much to be thankful for and it makes me glad for this time of year when we pause from our busy lives long enough to acknowledge how grateful we are to our Lord who makes everything possible; to whom we can never do enough to show our gratitude.





















Every year at this time, the WIC Clinic where I work participates in a local family-to-family Thanksgiving dinner give-away. An area non-profit agency purchases turkey dinners for needy families through their donations set aside for this purpose. Then they send letters out to other agencies whose purpose is to serve the down and out, asking them to help distribute the dinners. Each year, our WIC Clinic receives 25 turkey dinners which we raffle off to our clients.

As I am the only employee at our clinic who drives a "family-size" car, it becomes my job to go pick up the dinners. The process is extremely efficient! The agencies are to arrive with their letters at 10:00 AM. A long line of cars, trucks and vans pulls into the agency driveway and as each car arrives at the donation station, a group of volunteers opens all of the car doors and loads the car up with the necessary number of turkey dinners. After my van is loaded up with the 25 dinners, I drive back to work where a co-worker meets me at the loading dock and we unload the groceries from my van onto carts and we haul the food up to our Clinic. Twenty five families have already been called and told that they have won turkey dinners, so by 1:00 in the afternoon, they begin to arrive at the clinic to gather up their Thanksgiving food packages. It's a joy to participate in this annual give-away!

So, with that, I would like to make a list of some of the many things for which I am very grateful to God and I will begin it with my gratitude for my Catholic faith, my job, my family and friends, plenty of food, and a warm and cozy house to live in.

To those basic thanks, I add some recent specifics...




Mary was doing homework at the kitchen table while I cooked dinner and out of the blue she asked me how long it has been since we've gone to confession, and then added that she hopes we go real soon, she's got lots she wants to get off her chest. I am always happy to oblige with a visit to a nearby church where we can celebrate the sacrament, and I am grateful for a daughter who is aware of her need for God's forgiveness.

On a lazy Saturday morning I awoke from a crazy, silly dream and realized that I woke up because I was laughing so loud. I looked over to my husband and saw him smiling too, wondering what on earth could be so funny, and then I burst out laughing again. What a wonderful way to start the day!

I love Sundays! I love to rise early and attend the first Mass of the day with my family. When we come home, I love to exchange my dress clothes for something comfy and spend a relaxing day at home. I enjoy cooking a big Sunday dinner that fills the house with warmth and delicious smells as everyone anxiously awaits mealtime.

I recently had the joy of picking John up from a weekend away visiting the college Seminary and he talked non-stop on the half hour drive home about all of the wonderful things he experienced and how much he enjoyed his time there. It was wonderful to hear him say that he could easily see himself attending college at the Seminary!

I love being able to share my thoughts and prayers on this blog and to know that there are others who share those same thoughts and prayers. This big world really isn't so big, is it?

I am grateful for many opportunities to kneel in prayer, pouring out my heart until it is empty, ready and waiting for God to fill it with His love and the knowledge of His will for me.

For all of these blessings, and for so much more, I thank you, Lord!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Abandoned Boat






















The only audible sound was that of the waves quietly lapping over the rocks. A cold, damp November wind blew around me causing me to pull my coat collar tightly around my neck. I kept my head bent to the ground, looking for glints of sea glass on the sandy shore. As I followed the shoreline around the bend, I saw the boat anchored not too far from land. That boat, anchored in the same spot all summer long and now heading into winter, had captured my attention time and again. I wondered who it might belong to and why had they left it there. Did someone live on the boat and row to shore each day for work? Were they cold and lonely living out there? Could I live like that? Those were my usual thoughts, but today, something seemed different. Maybe it was because I approached the boat from the north, the opposite of my normal routine, but now, I could clearly understand the story of the boat.

It had belonged to Peter. Day after day he worked the lake, catching those mighty fish that jumped through the surface with reckless abandon. How he envied the fish, wishing he could somehow escape his dull and dreary life on the water, but nothing else had captured his heart and held it like the water did. He knew that he was meant to spend his days and nights on this cold and endless lake, thoughts drifting across the horizon without ever showing any signs of change in the future, that is, until that fateful day when he saw the Lord approaching, slowly walking across the misty water. He rubbed his sleepy eyes, unsure if this was a vision, or perhaps, a dream.

Now Jesus reached his arms out to Peter, calling him to come close. Filled with fear, Peter called out, "Depart from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!" But Jesus came even closer, close enough so that Peter could hear him reply, "Peter, your sin can't keep me away from you. I love you with your sin, and I want to help you to leave it behind."

And Peter took courage from those words, he pulled his coat tightly around his shoulders, and stepped out of the boat, towards the Lord. At first he faltered, unable to believe that he could really do this, really walk across the lake. He looked down, only for a moment, but that was all it took to shake his faith and he began to sink. "Eyes on me!" Jesus called out. "Keep looking to me, Peter, I am all you need for strength, to stay above the waves of doubt," and he reached out his hand to pull Peter to the surface once again.

Peter would never again return to the boat that had been his abode and his life-source. With his eyes forever looking to the Lord, his horizon became wider than ever before, filled with love, joy and peace that could not be found in his solitude on the water; that could only be found in the companionship of Jesus. And the boat remains anchored to that very spot where Peter left it, forever a symbol of our need to leave our past behind in favor of new life in Christ.

I continued my walk, uplifted by the knowledge that God would always find a way to remind me that I, too, like Peter, am called to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I step out of my own boat of seclusion and sinfulness and journey to the freedom that only He can provide.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Releasing my inner Jeremiah

"If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men--you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead." ~Thomas Merton

Doubt

I have long known that I suffer from an obsessive, compulsive personality. When I’m at work with my computer right in front of me, I must check my email every five minutes. It’s a terrible habit. I’m sure I do it because I crave attention and I just can’t wait to see who might be thinking of me and send me an email to prove it. I am also extremely hyperactive and fear that if I don’t keep up with answering my emails as soon as they arrive that I will fall behind and be forever playing catch up. I sure do think I’m important, don’t I? And I am important, but it shouldn’t matter to me whether or not other people think I’m important, the only opinion that matters is that of the One who made me, who loves me beyond belief and who will always be right by my side whether I pass a popularity test or not. Still, breaking the habit of being a people pleaser isn’t easy.

This fact was made crystal clear to me a few weeks ago. I had met someone for the first time and he told me that he was familiar with my blog and enjoyed reading it, and he praised my writing skills. Then he added, “But your blog is kind of girly.” All it took was that added comment behind the clause and I completely forgot the compliment that came before it. “He’s right,” I thought, “all those flowers are girly. Why would any man be interested in reading my blog?” Which was a foolish thought from the get-go, because I know that a lot of men read my blog and they don’t seem to be the least bit troubled by the flowers. The flowers are there for me, because I like them and they express my Victorian-leaning, old-fashioned personality. But now, the seed of doubt and insecurity was planted in my mind, and instead of discarding the comment, I began to dwell on it, and as soon as I had the chance, I started searching for a new blog background.

Lesson

I wasted an entire afternoon messing around with different backgrounds for the blog but couldn’t find any that I liked. I finally chose a plain white background with a black scroll on the side. It was the best I could do. I wrote to a blogging friend and asked him to take a look at my new background. He wrote back and said that the flowers had never put him off, and the new background looked awfully plain. When my husband and children arrived home and I told them what I had done, they were all disappointed in me and told me that I should change it back. Paul was especially hurt. He said, “You never listen to me when I tell you something, and now, the first time someone else tells you what he likes and doesn’t like, you believe him and change your blog because of it!”

Desperate to make things right again, I frantically changed the blog back to the background that I love. But it was too late, there was damage done. I lost my entire sidebar and I struggled to make my old background fit in with the recent changes that blogger had made to their templates; it just didn’t look right, it wasn’t the same. It took a lot of effort and frustration to make it look the way I had originally had it. Worst of all, I lost my previous site meter and had to start out at visitor number one when I knew that I was currently topping over 2000 visits a month. I complained to my blogging friend that my site meter was my favorite part of my blog. He kindly sympathized with me. What he should have done was criticized me for being so shallow. What I was telling him was that what I liked the best about my blog was seeing the number of visits I was racking up each day. What happened to writing for the glory of God? What happened to releasing my Inner Jeremiah? Even as I type this I feel shame burning my face at the realization of how terribly proud I am. For the second time since I began writing this blog in April of 2009, God made it clear to me that far too often I put my own glory above HIS glory. I was shaken to the core to realize that I’m not as perfect as I like to think I am. I have serious flaws that only God can repair.

The first time that my faults were pointed out to me through the blog, it was because my husband was complaining that I spent more time blogging-praying-reading-attending church, than I did with him and the children. He recognized my behavior as obsessive and called me on it. Why is it that I panic every time I come close to realizing that I am not perfect? Why is it that I can’t simply rest in the Lord and trust that He is using me for His glory, not for mine, and that I am not meant to be perfect but am only meant to point to His perfection. I decided that I had to quit the blog for the sake of my family…but…I couldn’t! Something in me just has to write, just has to get the words out! So, after a short hiatus, I returned to blogging within a few weeks, at a much more relaxed rate. Instead of daily posts, I cut back to two to three posts a week and everyone was happy with the compromise.

Conviction

Then, just this week, I ran across something that really convinced me that it’s time to make a change. Since I began blogging, I have been a huge fan (along with just about everybody else, and for very good reason) of Ann Voskamp’s Holy Experience blog. Her words are pure beauty. Her photography is perfection. The music on her blog is blissful! (Sometimes when I’m at work and feeling stressed, I click on her blog and minimize it just so that I can enjoy the lovely, calming sounds of the piano music while I work!) Every now and then she writes a post for {in}courage. Her most recent post stopped me in my tracks and demanded that I take notice. She has long recommended writing for God alone and has gone without site meters, comments and followers as the trappings that cause a blogger to write for themselves and their pride instead of for His glory.

This time, something in her message got through to me. Please, please, take the time to read her amazing words and see if you don’t agree. As a result of her post, I have decided that I can follow in her footsteps. I, too, can let go of the site meter and the comments. I will write for God. My email will still be available and can be found on the "about me page", so if you want to contact me, I will always be happy to hear from you as I am not yet ready to release my obsession of checking for new mail every five minutes; I’ve got to take it one slow step at a time. And, I don’t want to say that this change will be permanent, but I pray that God will give me the courage to let go of those few trappings in favor of a heart more open to His love, His will, His desires for me and my life. Pray for me, as well, won’t you, as I continue to strive to release my inner Jeremiah in a way in which He will be pleased?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jack and Mary
















Screams of delight
come from the kitchen.
Jack and Mary are building domino towers
and laugh as they tumble.
Their laughter
is contagious and beautiful!

They are the best of friends
doing nearly everything
together.

And while they may play
nicely
together one minute,
they just as easily
will begin to argue
like an old married couple
the next.

A quick hug
and they are right back
to playing again.

Thank you, Lord,
for Jack and Mary
and their witness
to Your love through
their joy and forgiveness.

CAMPING SCHOOL

While relaxing at the beach on our camping vacation, Jack and Mary found a way to crack large rocks open to see how they glitter inside. Mary brought a rock to me and shared a memory from first grade, "Sister Rita said that even the most plain rocks like this one are beautiful inside. She was right!"

So, Mary and I compared rocks to people and we decided that even the most plain people are beautiful inside as well, because God is there.

Thank you, God, for this lesson on Your Holy Presence in our lives in the midst of our family vacation. And thank you for Sister Rita, who continues to teach us even when we aren't with her!

(photo taken 9/2010 at Devil's Lake State Park)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Little Star-A Book Review


When my children were small, we used to pile on the couch, me in the middle with my daughter on my lap, and my four sons on either side, sometimes sitting on the top of the couch so they could get a better view of the pictures, and we would spend hours each evening reading stories. Those were wonderful moments for my family, and I do miss those storied evenings now that my children are so much older and read on their own.

So, when Anthony DeStefano asked me to take a look at his newest book for children, Little Star, and told me that it was about his effort to encapsulate the whole Christ story in the message of the incarnation, I was not only intrigued to see how he made that effort work, but I was also overcome with a sense of nostalgia for reading childrens books, and so I eagerly accepted his offer. I am very glad that I did!

When the book arrived in the mail, I quickly glanced through it and decided I would wait to read it until I could invite my two youngest children, Jack-12, and Mary-9, to read it with me. I wanted their viewpoints on the book as well, since it is intended for children. The three of us shared a relaxing evening as we enjoyed the artwork of Mark Elliott (we especially loved Little Star’s cowlick of hair!) and the enchantingly uplifting story of Little Star. When we finished reading the book, I asked my children if they understood what the story was about, and without missing a beat, Mary answered, “It’s about the death and resurrection of Jesus.” Her response made it obvious that the meaning of the story came through loud and clear.

Through the viewpoint of the stars in heaven, one little loner star rose to a lofty position as the only one who recognized the importance of a king born in a cold and humble stable. He roused himself to shine brightly for the baby, offering warmth and light as his gift, and burned so brightly that he burned himself out for the Lord. Through Little Star, we learn that when we lay our lives down for others, giving our best and our all, we will never die, but like Jesus, we will live forever in the memories and hearts of those who follow us.

Little Star is a wonderful story with a timeless message. It’s sure to become a family classic enjoyed not only at Christmas time, but throughout the year as well.

(Visit here to learn more about Anthony DeStefano and the other fabulous books that he has written, and be sure to order your own copy of Little Star.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holding On To Hope-Book Review


Holding On To Hope by Sister Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP-A Book Review

I have been a fan of Sister Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP, ever since I read her books Surviving Depression and Making Peace with Yourself. Her words in these books brought me comfort and a sense of community in my darkness, helping me to realize that depression can happen to anybody, but it doesn’t have to define who we are or lead to restrictions in our lives.

In Holding on to Hope I found the same sense of comfort and support that I have come to acquaint with Sr. Hermes. The book is set up with sections on images, scripture, reflection questions, contemplative exercises, resting and inner healing exercises (written by Sr. Helene Cote, PM, MTS.) Throughout each chapter, the reader is lead into a spiritual healing experience based on the life of Christ.

Some passages that I found to be especially helpful for me were those that dealt with the realization that God is always present, holding us as we heal, and supporting us in those moments when we fall back into darkness, such as:

“This is the way it is. We cannot escape the waves of consolation and desolation that wash through our souls…we need to be able to dip back into the darkness here and there with graciousness and without fear in order to learn to relax there, where God is also present. (p. 74)

But perhaps, the most hopeful and helpful section of all was Appendix Two: A Process for Putting on Christ in Seven Stages. This section dealt with the letters of St. Paul that show his transformation as he “put on Christ.” We, too, are called to put on Christ and can accomplish this by following the example of this great saint. I plan to follow Sr. Hermes’ lead here by praying with her hopeful and serene words: I want only Jesus, not my perfection or security or happiness. Knowing Jesus is more important to me than any of this. To share His sufferings is my greatest joy because I know He will let me share His resurrection.” (p. 142)

As a wife and mother who has fallen in and out of depression many times in the past few years, I found that Sr. Hermes book, Holding on to Hope, will be a great resource for me to use whenever life becomes difficult and despair seems so near. In those dark times, I will reach for this book and hold on to hope.

Many thanks to Sally Feller at Pauline Books and Media for this opportunity to review Holding on to Hope.

Review also found on Catholicmom.com (visit this link to order the book and support Catholicmom.com)


Friday, November 12, 2010

Sometimes They Carry Me

Maria at This Crazy Love has asked me to write a guest post for her about how living with depression affects my family. This was probably the most personal and difficult writing I have ever done, but I was moved by the fact that Maria felt that my words might help her in some way, and so I thought that even if one person would feel encouraged or supported by the story of my struggle, then it would be God's way of using me and my life for His purpose as a benefit to others.

You can read the post here. And, thank you Maria for this request that caused me to take a good, deep look at my life and to realize how very blessed I am to have such a wonderful, loving and supportive family and to see how far I have come by the grace of God.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More Than Just Old Bones!

My parish has a quarterly newsletter for which I write (you're surprised about that, right?) We have been running a Catholic Trivia Series and this is my latest installment. Do you like the title? I thought it was fitting for this blog, and for me because very soon I will be celebrating my 45th birthday and although my bones do audibly creak from time to time, I hope that I won't be looked at as just some old bones from now on!


When someone that we love moves away or dies, we long to keep a personal memento of that loved one so that we can look upon it with fond memories and it will become a reminder to pray for that person, and perhaps, to ask that person to pray for us. It’s no different in the Church. When someone who has lived a good and holy life has been elevated to the status of sainthood, we like to have those visual reminders that personal mementos provide to let us know that our beloved saint always remains with us in spirit. This is how relics can come to be a source of support in remembering the saints and in helping us to grow in holiness by turning to them in prayer.

A relic is often a piece of bone, but can also be a piece of clothing or other personal item, that had belonged to a saint and has been preserved and stored in a reliquary, or container specifically meant for holding relics, so that the faithful can venerate or honor that saint as a means to draw us into adoration of God, for whom the saintly person lived their life. The word relic is based on the Latin term “reliquiae” which means “remains.”

The practice of venerating relics is carried out in many world religions including Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. The Christian practice of venerating relics dates back to the Old Testament book of Kings: “So Elisha died and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet.” (2 Kings 13:20-21)

Another very moving example of the use of relics comes from the New Testament where a woman was cured of her hemorrhage just by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak. She didn’t need to touch the body of Jesus or even to speak to him, but by simply reaching out to the fabric of his clothing in faith, a healing miracle occurred.

Now, today, we can’t really claim that the veneration of the relics of saints will bring about miracles, but it can draw us deeper into the mystery of God and the lives of His saints by spending some time praying over relics and reflecting on the lives of the people that they represent.

Perhaps the first saint whose relics were venerated after the time of Christ was St. Polycarp. According to Catholic Answers, the early Christians who were with him when he was burned at the stake saw to it that his remains were well cared for and they recorded the event with these words: “We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.”

There are several different classes of relics. A first class relic is a part of the Saint’s physical body such as a piece of bone or hair and also the instruments of Christ’s passion such as a sliver of wood from the cross. A second-class relic is something owned by the Saint or instruments of torture used against a martyr. A third class relic is something that was touched to a first or second-class relic. It is possible to make a third class relic by touching a first or second-class relic, including the tomb of a Saint, with an object, for example, a rosary or a holy card. When relics are placed inside of churches, they are kept in one of two places: in a space inside of an altar or in a reliquary, a container specifically meant for the storage and veneration of relics.

In some cases, the body of a saint is found to be incorruptible, or without decay, when it is exhumed. In these cases, rather than separating the pieces of bones and sharing them throughout the world, the remains of the body are usually kept whole, possibly covered with wax or silicone for protection and aesthetics. There are many famous saints whose bodies are venerated as incorruptible relics such as St. Catherine Laboure from whom we received the Miraculous Medal of Mary, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of all priests, and St. Bernadette Soubirous who was the visionary at Lourdes, France.

Here in the United States there are only ten saints whose entire bodies are available for veneration. One of these can be found in Galesburg, Illinois. Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer based in Milwaukee, recently paid a visit to Corpus Christi Church in Galesburg, and shares the fascinating story of St. Crescent on his blog, Offer It Up:


Around 1838 the body of a nine or ten year old boy was discovered during excavations of the catacombs of St. Cyriacus in Rome. He suffered martyrdom at that young age around the end of the third century in the persecution of the emperor Diocletian, one of the fiercest persecutions of the early Church. His name "Cresces" (anglicized to "Crescent") was on the marble slab that covered the tomb and next to the body was an urn in which had been placed the blood of the martyr now dried.

The body of St. Crescent was removed and the Holy Father gave it to Blessed Antonio Rosmini, founder of the Institute of Charity or Rosminians. Father Rosmini had the relic taken to Stresa, Italy, where it was placed under the altar of his chapel. In 1887, Rosminian Father Joseph Costa asked his superiors if he could have the relic for the church he had just built in Galesburg, Illinois. His superiors agreed.

St. Crescent's body was enclosed in a case of thin glass and Fr. Costa worried that it wouldn't make the long trip to the U.S. without being damaged. He expressed his concern to his superiors, one of whom told him: "St. Crescent will take care of himself, and you too!" And so it happened. The relic survived intact on the railroad trips through Italy, France, England, and from New York to Galesburg, but what was more remarkable was his ocean passage. Fr. Costa planned on crossing the Atlantic on a ship called "Alesia." Either because he suddenly changed his mind or because he missed the departure time, Fr. Costa and St. Cresent missed the boat. But the "Alesia" never completed the voyage; it mysteriously disappeared. Fr. Costa along with St. Crescent, having boarded a different ship, arrived safely.

You can see the body of St. Crescent in a glass case on the right side of Corpus Christi church. The bones are covered with wax except for two wounds through which you can see an arm bone and the skull. You can also see the teeth of the martyr through his partially opened mouth.”

Pictured: St. Crescent

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stay With God

Lethargy

My friend, Fr. Jim, who travels frequently let me know that he would be leaving town for the weekend, so I wrote to him with the blessing, "God be with you!" He shared a story with me about how his family would bless those who were traveling with the words, "Go with God," and he gave me his own blessing for the weekend, "Stay with God." I had no idea how much I would need that blessing, but by the end of the weekend, I was so very grateful for it, as I prayed those words over and over again and the thought of staying with God brought me peace and comfort...

It wasn't exactly a terrible weekend, just a blah passage of time with lots of sleep for this weary soul fighting headaches and depression. On Sunday morning, when my family and I attended Mass, we found out that our former assistant pastor who had only been with us at our parish for one year before moving on, has just been granted a six month leave by the Archbishop so that he may discern his future. This priest had been very important to my family while he was at our parish, we had him over for dinner and a basketball game with the boys every month and we all loved him deeply, in fact, everyone who knows him loves him deeply. He is very devout, friendly and fabulous with kids. It has been over three years since we have last seen him and so this news came as a shock to us, but it was especially hard for my son John who looked up to him as a role model in his own discernment of a vocation to the priesthood. After breakfast, Paul and I lingered at the table with John as he poured out his worries and sorrows over this news. And for myself, I spent the day fighting back tears as I offered prayers for him and reminded myself to "Stay With God." By Sunday evening I was drained. I had written to my friend, Fr. Don, about my troubles and this is how he replied: "Imagine walking out of the boat towards Jesus on the water and focusing on HIM. He is watching, supporting, holding and loving you right now." Somehow, it became so much easier to realize that God was with me, that I was staying with Him, with that image in my mind.

I carried those words in my heart until it was time for me to pick up my sweet young friend, Lisa-Marie, who has asked me to be her Confirmation sponsor, so that we could attend a district meeting for confirmands and their sponsors. My son John who is also being Confirmed this year and his good friend, newly ordained Fr. Matthew Widder who is his sponsor, were also at the meeting. When we arrived at the church we were pleased to see that it was packed. The guest speaker was Fr. Luke Strand, a recently ordained priest within the past two years and a friend to Fr. Matthew. You may have heard Fr. Luke's name from the recent news about his "God Squad."

Electric Jolt


Listening to Fr. Luke was like having an electric jolt pass through my body and wake me up from my self-pity; all of my frustrations and sorrows evaporated as I found myself smiling at every word he spoke. The theme of the evening was "Eucharist."

As Fr. Luke began talking, I sat back and knew that this would be an enjoyable talk, but before I realized it, I could not relax and I was scrounging through my purse looking for a pen so I could take note of what he was saying, knowing that his words were ones I would never want to forget.

Here is just some of what he said:

"When we consume the Eucharist, Jesus consumes us. He gives us a giant bear hug and says 'I love you so much! I am never going to leave you!' We become divinized, a living Tabernacle."

"People who come to daily Mass are like hot coals on a campfire that keep the love of God alive, and young people who are just learning about their faith are like the new wood that is added to the fire to keep the sparks going."

Then he spoke about adoration of the Lord present in the Tabernacle. He invited everyone to kneel as he himself knelt in front of the Lord. For five full minutes, the entire church of chatty teens and sponsors knelt in absolute, blissful silence. And then Fr. Luke began to sing. He sang "Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary" in a beautiful voice that gave me chills. He then invited Fr. Matthew up to the front of church and introduced him to everyone as his friend from the Seminary. He talked about how he and Fr. Matthew, along with several other men from the Seminary, would spend one hour every morning in front of the Eucharist in adoration. He said that changed everything for them, and he added that it brought about a close bond between the two priests from that daily shared experience.

Fr. Luke told us that he "Gave up his life for the Eucharist. I offer my whole life for my bride, the Church. My bride is beautiful, the Church is gorgeous!" Then he looked out at all of us and told us that we are the Church and said, "Your heart, the heart of the Church is the Eucharist. I will give my life for it!"

He summarized the evening by telling us that the longing in our hearts revolves around the Eucharist and the only way it will be satisfied is to spend time with the Lord. He challenged the youth to be counter-cultural, to attend Mass every Sunday until they are confirmed, even if their parents don't go to Mass. He said, "Even if it requires a sacrifice, come to Mass, because heaven meets earth here, the spiritual realm is here and God is calling you."

His talk put to rest all of my worries about my children attending confirmation classes. I know that even if most of the sessions are dreary and uninspired, and the children attending don't seem to care about their faith at this point in time, it will all be worth it for my sons and for Lisa-Marie when they realize how much they are loved by God. And when the day finally arrives for my son, John and for Lisa-Marie to be confirmed in the faith, I will tell them, "Stay with God."

Dearest Sweet Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to stay with You, and to realize the many blessings that You have poured into my life. Thank you for friends who share spiritual words of wisdom, for good and holy priests who give their lives for Your church, for young men and women who are answering the call to be confirmed in Your love through the Holy Spirit, and for my family who are always by my side, journeying with me to Your Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

Thy Will Be Done

"There are only two kinds of people in the end; those who say to God 'Thy will be done' and those to whom God says 'Thy will be done.'" C.S. Lewis

Heavenly Father,

you've laid a choice before me; a most difficult choice.
I can have anything I want, or, I can have what You want.
My cravings are strong.
My desire is deep.
But the things I want aren't real.

Only You are real
.

Yet, I can't let go of the fantasy, the dreams.
The tempter laughs when he sees
how difficult this is for me.
It has become the thorn in my side
to remind me that I must depend on You alone.
But, I can't accept Your reality without Your help.

Help me, God.


Unloose me from the chains of sin
that hold my soul at a distance from You.
Help me to choose You and Your will for me.
Teach me to let go of everything
that holds me back from Your eternal Love and Joy.
Help me to live so that all of my thoughts and actions
are a testament to my choice:

"Thy will be done."


Amen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Stronghold

"My soul is weary with sorrow: strengthen me according to your word." Psalm 119:28

He's seen her tears and heard her sobs. He watched her lay in bed, unable to get up. He saw her close the door on the world, wanting to hide inside of herself, but forcing her way through each day anyway. And he held her. Everyday. He held her until the pain went away, until she could breathe again, live again. But he never forgot. He couldn't forget what it was like to watch his vibrant wife wither away, barely able to care for the children, completely unable to care for herself.


Summer came and the energy came back and her lungs breathed deeply taking in the fresh air of newly cut grass and fragrant flowers. The sun shone brightly waking her up to joy. But he didn't forget. He watched her closely, her every move, for any sign of that dark mood that easily overtakes her spirit.


Autumn came, and he knew. He knew that her spirits would become as fragile as the leaves that shriveled on the trees and blew to the ground at the first strong wind. So he watched closely; he watched for the signs of despair. When he saw a book on the kitchen counter with the word "sadness" in the title, he immediately confronted her, asking her why she was reading that book, thinking that she was dwelling on despair, clinging to sadness, unaware that it was a fictional story that had nothing to do with her emotions. Relief filled his eyes with her explanation.


But she knows. She knows that wherever the seasons may take her, whether it's to the heights of joy or the depths of despair, he will always look out for her, always love her and always hold her until she can stand on her own once again. He is her stronghold sent from God and entwined through marriage, to care for her and to carry her when she becomes too weak to stand on her own.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Can't Believe It!


In the previous post I questioned why parents would make their children get confirmed when they don't practice the faith by participating in Sunday Mass on a regular basis. I thought that was pretty senseless, but now, I have learned about something even more senseless. It's one of those occasions where I just have to automatically slap my forehead in disbelief!

My oldest son participates in a monthly vocations discernment group with the Associate Pastor of our parish and he just shared this outrageous story with me that he learned at the most recent meeting. Fr. Dennis has been visiting the 7th and 8th grade classrooms at the parish school and has been assigning scripture study essays to the students as part of their religion course.

AND THE PARENTS ARE COMPLAINING!!!!!! WHAT?????

Why in the world would someone spend $3000 a year to send their child to a Catholic school and then complain when their child learns about their Catholic faith at that school? I just don't get it!!!! Fr. Dennis specializes in church history and he is a goldmine of information. Those kids are going to get smart under his care! I would have been thrilled if Fr. Dennis had done this while my boys were in 7th and 8th grade, and I look forward to next year when Jack will be assigned scripture study essays by Fr. Dennis.

And I can be assured that he will receive those assignments because Fr. Dennis is NOT going to back down! "Bring it on!!!" he says. "The priest should be teaching religion and this is one battle that I'm going to win!"

Fight hard, Fr. Dennis! It's well worth it!

Goody Two Shoes

I should go for a lunch time walk to clear my mind from the throbbing mist that weighs my thoughts down, making it difficult for me to concentrate. I should breathe in the fresh autumn air to wake me from my drowsiness. But, instead, I remain planted at my desk, door shut, silently pouring my words, my questions, into this computer...

Way back when, just about thirty years ago, when I was a high school student, I attended confirmation classes and hated it. I hated it because the other students wouldn't take it seriously. They would laugh and talk and fail to pay attention to the catechist, even when the parish brought in a young biker couple fresh on the heels of a conversion and enthusiastic about sharing their faith. I hated it because time after time, with each question asked by Fr. Dan or the catechist, I would be the only one to raise my hand with an answer or a comment and I began to feel like a foolish Little Miss Goody Two Shoes. (Just what does that mean anyway? I've never worn very good shoes, just ask me about my corns, and doesn't everyone wear two shoes?) I wanted to give in to the peer pressure and act cool by not participating, but my heart always ached for the catechist and how hard she had to work to help us along our spiritual path. So up my hand would go in the air, and I'd grimace at the sound of my classmates as they snickered and teased.

I'm thinking back to those days because I now have three sons who are enrolled in our parish confirmation classes and they seem to be hating it just as much as I did for all of the same reasons. Do some things never change?

Each Sunday evening my sons leave for Confirmation class without complaint, but when they come home, they all talk about how much they hate going because all of the kids in the class are so rude and disrespectful. They end up just kind of zoning out and clamming up while they passively wait for the two hours to pass.

This sad fact of life has prompted some really good family discussions and has left me with a lot to think about. I wonder if I would be better off letting my sons drop out of the classes and teach them at home instead. I know that at home with me they would learn much more than anything they could possibly learn in a class with a bunch of disruptive kids. But if I were to do this, would they still be allowed to be confirmed during their junior year without the classroom community aspect?

I also wonder how important it really is for them to be confirmed in the faith while they are in high school. I can't believe that I am actually going to let this thought escape through my fingertips and into the keyboard, but what if they waited to get confirmed as adults instead of doing it now while they are in high school. Would that reflect badly on me and my faith? And is the fact that I worry about that just a result of my spiritual pride?

Yet I know that no matter what type of environment they are raised in, the choice to follow Jesus and to open their hearts to God is one that they alone can make. It's impossible to force God on our children, so why do so many parents insist that their children become confirmed in high school, especially when many of those families don't even attend church on a regular basis? What's the point of confirmation if you aren't going to live your faith?

I hope and pray that whether or not my children are confirmed while they are in high school, that the seed of faith has been deeply planted in their hearts and has been adequately nourished in their day to day lives, that somewhere along the line they will make the conscious choice to follow Christ, to remain close to Him and to live their lives in His love and service.

I know that even if my children were to choose to wait until they are adults and to go through the RCIA process to become confirmed, that it doesn't guarantee that the experience will be any better than what they are witnessing right now. I know that lots of adults only become confirmed for their soon-to-be spouse and aren't really active participants in the faith or the classes, and I have certainly seen first hand by teaching Christian Formation Classes for three years and sponsoring a Candidate as she entered the Catholic Church, that the catechists can be pretty out there as far as following and teaching the true faith. What a person "gets" in faith formation class can really be the result of the blessing of growing up in a family who does live their faith, and the luck of having a wonderful Catechist who will teach the true faith of the Magisterium of our Church.

Ultimately, I know that even God will not force himself upon my children, but will gently call and nudge, hoping that they will recognize their need for Him in their lives and respond with loving openness to His presence. In the meantime, I will continue to encourage them to attend the classes, to get along as best they can with both their classmates and their catechists, and to try to develop blinders so that they won't feel ostracized for knowing and living their faith as teenagers.

What would you do if you were in my Goody Two Shoes?
















(John, Justin and Joe at Devil's Lake State Park, WI 9/10)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Autumn, Won't You Linger?



















melancholy sets in as moments swiftly pass
although the season is still Autumn
I feel as though I've missed its spirit...

Autumn, won't you linger
for just a little while?
I've yet to rake the leaves on a brisk day
and then jump into the pile
with the recklessness of youth.

Autumn, won't you linger
for just a little while?
I've yet to walk through the woods
and hear the leaves crunching underfoot
as blue sky peeks through now-bare branches.













Autumn, won't you linger
for just a little while?
I've yet to gather apples at the orchard,
carve pumpkins for the porch,
or pause to watch the geese flying low
on their journey south.














Autumn, won't you linger
for just a little while?
I want to taste the sweet and tart pairing
of a juicy caramel apple,
and see my breath fly away
in the early morning hours,
I long to relish the smell of musky leaves
as they decay beneath the tree,
and carry the last of the sunflowers
from the garden to the house.

Autumn, won't you linger
for just a little while?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Passage

a re-post from All Soul's Day 2009:























Oh life, I cling to you!
Though your days grow long
and the shadows linger
I hate to say good-bye.

I want to hold your hand and
feel the wrinkles in your skin.
I want to gaze into your
clouded eyes
and recall the spark
that once existed there.

My heart aches
for the feeling of love
that once flourished
inside of me
because of you.

My body aches
for the feeling of
your once strong arms
that held me so tenderly.

I am left
empty
lonely
without you.

May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace. Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Edge of Sadness

While reading one of my favorite blogs, Betty Duffy, I came upon a post that caught my attention with the title "I did my work, time went by..." It was a quote from the book "The Edge of Sadness" by Edwin O'Connor published in 1961.

With Betty's statement that this was the best novel she had read in a long time, I headed right out to the library to pick up a copy and found that I completely agreed with Betty; "The Edge of Sadness" was wonderful! What is most interesting to me when I read other people's opinions of books is that the same story can strike people in different ways, drawing us to find meaning and enrichment to whatever may be on our hearts at the time of reading the book. Betty's post on the book rightly pointed out that working through the ordinary and mundane activities of life can be a way to find the heart of God. But for me, it was detachment, that ever elusive ideal to which I am always striving, that stood out for me as a highlight of the story.

"The Edge of Sadness" is the story of Fr. Kennedy, who began his priesthood as a popular and well-loved priest, but with the death of his father, found himself floundering in his vocation. It was through a life-long friend and fellow priest that he began to realize his true purpose in the priesthood. At the end of the story, the Bishop offers Fr. Kennedy the parish he had always wanted but he turns it down in favor of staying at the dreary, run-down inner city parish where he is currently assigned.

He says "At this moment, here in the rectory hallway, I stood aching with excitement, for suddenly it seemed to me that something might be ahead which grew out of the past, yes, but was totally different, with its own labors and rewards, that it might be deeper and fuller and more meaningful than anything in the past, and that as a priest at Old St. Paul's, working day by day in this parish I had really been shamed into choosing by the scornful words of a dying friend, I might, through the parish and its people, find my way not again to the simple engagement of the heart and affections, but to the Richness, the Mercy, the immeasurable Love of God..."

I was thinking that this might be the best example of detachment that I have ever read! Here was this priest giving up something that he had wanted for years, the parish of his dreams, and he found that without it, he was closer to God than ever before. And isn't that the purpose of all of our lives here on earth, to draw closer to God through whatever means He happens to present to us at any given moment? It seems to me that God is always nudging me and sometimes even forcefully pushing me, towards letting go of my disordered dreams, hopes, desires and friendships. I need constant reminders that the things I want can often become false idols that get in the way of my relationship with God instead of leading me to Him. The next time I cry out to the heavens in frustration over lost dreams I will remember this quote and the the fictional Fr. Kennedy as an example of the virtues to be found when we let go and let God.

Another highlight for me in reading this book was the section where the son of one of his lifelong friends had asked Fr. Kennedy for permission to come to his parish and promote himself and his political candidacy and Fr. Kennedy denied that request summing it up with this great quote: "...the Mass isn't quite the same as the regular monthly meeting of the Parent-Teacher's Association, is it? It's a prayer, after all; you can't use it for anything else. And even to be there-to be seen, as a candidate-would be using it. No, I'm afraid I'm against it."

In light of the impending election and my views about using a Catholic newspaper to promote political candidates, I found this passage to be very enlightening!

If you have not read "The Edge of Sadness", I highly recommend it. It was one of those rare books that, despite it's length, was a quick read because it was so easy to get caught up in the lives of the characters and it was impossible to put it down until I was finished, and even then, I continued to re-read passages that touched my heart.

"Care for Creation" Book Tour

Christy Baldwin has written a practical children's book with tons of ideas for "living green" and it is written in such a way so that it doesn't talk down to children, but rather, expects children to live up to high standards in caring for the earth with which God has blessed us. Each suggestion is complemented by a Scripture verse that shows how God has always meant for humans to love the earth and to be stewards of this marvelous gift that he has given to us. The artwork by Shelly Draven colorfully enhances the written words and helps the reader to visualize the points made on each page.


My thanks to Nicole at Tribute Books for allowing me this opportunity to review "Care for Creation."