Monday, February 28, 2011
"The Presentation of the Gifts during mass is more than just bringing up the bread, wine and collection. Those members of the congregation are not just bringing up our monetary offering. They are symbolically bringing up our spiritual offerings and requests as well. Which makes it a good time to silently let God know our prayers and requests, and give him our thanks. (Instead of sitting there aimlessly tapping your feet to the hymn like I have been guilty of doing...)" ~Michael at Reach Paradise
My family is often asked to bring up the gifts at Mass and we don't like it! It's uncomfortable getting up in front of everybody and walking to the front-feeling all those eyes upon you. Yesterday, my husband, my youngest daughter and I were on the end of the pew, so we decided that it would be just us three to bring up the gifts instead of our whole family of six marching up there. (Number seven was cantoring, and after Mass Fr. Dennis commented on the fact that I was beaming every time my oldest son sang!)
But, youngest son didn't get the message. There he was following Paul and Mary and I to the back of church. He looked as if he hadn't brushed his hair and I noticed that his face was dirty with a blue-tinged mustache from blue kool-aid enjoyed the night before during a family Monopoly game! (Why didn't I notice that before we left the house?) I felt embarrassed.
"And Jesus, looking at him, loved him." Mark 10:21
But the truth is that my youngest son coming along to the altar carrying the jar of wine was the best gift of all! My youngest son presented himself just as he is-a boy in NEED of God's love and mercy and always eager to give himself to the Lord in any condition he finds himself. He didn't hide behind any pretenses or false self. He came as he was with all of the love in his heart and his forever readiness to give himself to God.
How I wish I could be like that! I want to open my heart, really open my heart, to give God my all-even my messy, dirty, unkempt self-because He loves me, the real me, not just the me I am willing to show to the world, but the me that I bury deep inside because I'm ashamed of who I really am. If I could be able to do that, then I would become a real gift to my Maker.
And now I realize that even with a blue-tinged mustache and messy hair, my youngest son inspires my heart to pride and joy just as much as my oldest son does with his gift of song! And the next time that my family is asked to bring the offertory gifts to the altar, I will do so with joy in my heart, knowing that by doing so, I am praising God with my entire self, the good and the bad, all of which He loves with a deep and abiding love.
"You who are alive and well shall praise and glorify God in his mercies. How great the mercy of the Lord, his forgiveness of those who return to him!" Sirach17:24
Saturday, February 26, 2011
I loved this poster when I first heard about it, and I believe the message it portrays to be true. But, I also understand the reason why it was removed from the New York building to which it was displayed...nobody likes to be confronted with a painful truth day in and day out. We don't quite know how to handle the hurt, the guilt we feel, even those of us who have never personally had an abortion. Archbishop Dolan plainly and clearly speaks to this intolerance in his most recent blog post.
But I face these truths nearly every day in my work-life. Just yesterday, in fact. There we sat, face to face, a young mother and I. As I cozied up to her and shared the fact that we are both mothers of five children, I expected us to get along just fine because of our commonality. But then she said it, she said those words I dread, those words that put a knot in my stomach every single time I hear them..."My most recent pregnancy ended in abortion."
My most recent pregnancy ended in abortion.
Maybe I should be keeping track of the number of times I've heard those tragic words, those words that cause my heart to harden, that make me turn away from the client I am with, unable to face her, unsure of what to say. I quickly pray, for her and for her now-dead baby, that's for certain. But I am unable to draw any sort of compassion from my heart, for those words have been uttered in my presence far too often.
Once is far too often.
I want to see inside her heart and I wonder about how she might be feeling. Is she sorry? Is she hurting over her decision and what she's done? Or, is she relieved with no regrets?
But, I can't dwell on my thoughts; I'm paid to do a job. I've got to give this woman nutrition counseling and vouchers for six months of nutritious foods even though she killed her baby, because according to WIC (Women, Infants and Children) policy all postpartum women who qualify based on financial need and nutrition risk are allowed to receive WIC benefits (nutrition education and healthy foods-milk, eggs, cereal, bread, fruits, vegetables and juice) for six months following the termination of a pregnancy-whether that termination resulted in a birth, miscarriage or abortion.
The truth hurts, yes, but abortion hurts with a damage beyond repair.
Lord, give me a heart of compassion, a heart of love for all. Wake me up from the dread fear and sorrow that grips my heart in the presence of painful truths. Give me strength to cope and courage to turn the hearts of others so that everyone will value life, will give life, your greatest gift to us all. And please, God, don't ever let me grow comfortable upon hearing those words "My most recent pregnancy ended in abortion." Let me always feel the discomfort and pain that the loss of innocent life rightly deserves. Amen.
Friday, February 25, 2011
I'm turning inward to God, silently giving Him all of the nuances of my heart-the pain, the worry, the joy, the busyness, the frustration, the love, the deep acceptance of it all...and in that silent prayer, words to share escape me; I'm lost in an unexplainable whirl. Then...I find these words that help explain it all...I am a burning candle, lit somewhere in the middle of my life, not knowing or caring where I began or how long I will last. Would you like to read more about burning flames? Visit Katherine at Evlogia today and see how you, too, are a candle in the present moment...
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
and although we never spoke,
in my self-centered obsession
I felt that he didn't like me
because he wouldn't smile or even
make eye contact with me
but others spoke highly of him
and the good he did in this world
taking a poor sister into his care
helping her return to her home
half a world away
and day after day
we sat only a few pews apart
our voices joined in prayer
to the only One who will ever
really know us
now he's gone, his pew is empty
his soul is on its final journey
to the only One who really
does knows him
what's left behind is a sparse
and a prayer in my heart
for the man who was, to me,
her funeral was small,
only a few relatives in attendance
but their love for her was
genuine, and the tears
they cried were real
although she had spent
her entire adulthood
in a house near the church
poor health required a move
to the nursing home
in recent years
I was shocked
when the officiating priest
had to ask for her name
during his funeral homily
and I thought it sad
to be unknown
and I longed to make a difference
leave a mark upon the earth
to reveal my face and what
is deep within my heart
before it's too late
and I pass this way unknown
I busy myself
and I make connections
and I strive and I push
because all I want is to
yet in the end, will it really matter?
when He calls me to His heart
He will know who I am
down to the smallest detail;
and after I'm gone
there will still be an empty pew
and some tears shed by those
who love me
but the world at large
will never know me
will not remember me
and it does not matter at all
that I am unknown
spending precious time with Him
in the silence of my heart,
with head bowed down
and knees to earth,
we share all we need to know
of the other
so if these fleeting moments
here on earth
leave me by myself, alone
familiarity will still be mine
in His heart, I will always
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Helping with this website, even in a limited way considering his busy high school schedule with study, sports, work and volunteering at church, has been a tremendous blessing in my son's life. Last year, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer, had mentioned A Vocation to be a Priest to the staff at our local Relevant Radio station, and John was interviewed for their vocation week special. More recently, John was contacted by Steen Heidemann, the author of The Catholic Priest:Image of Christ. Mr. Heidemann generously sent John a copy of his beautiful book and asked John to review it on the website.
When the book arrived in the mail, I was overcome with the beauty of the artwork it contained. With John's permission, I shared The Catholic Priest: Image of Christ with my friends at St. Francis de Sales Seminary as well as with all of my sisters at our monthly rosary night. Everyone was moved by the beauty of the artwork it contained.
What follows is John's review of The Catholic Priest: Image of Christ, which can also be found at A Vocation to be a Priest on the News Page---
As a means of honoring the priesthood, Pope Benedict XVI declared last year to be the “Year of the Priest” but these heroic men need more than just one year of honor, and Steen Heidemann who worked tirelessly for eight years, has produced a timeless source of honor for priests with his masterpiece, The Catholic Priest; Image of Christ which reflects the true beauty of the Catholic Priesthood. Mr. Heidemann took an interest in presenting the faith and the priesthood in current art with alternatives to what is termed ‘contemporary or financial art’. According to Mr. Heidemann, “'Works,' to quote the Holy Father, 'do not copy previous centuries, but are made in a continuation with the past. The ordination picture here by American artist Neilson Carlin is an example.'”
This 319 page book printed in six different languages (English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Spanish) is filled to the brim with the most stunning and inspirational pictures of the Catholic Priest in the different aspects of his life. Each of the works of our period shown by Christian artists in this book, reveal a continuation with the past rather than-a- simple echo of it. For those who are contemplating a vocation to the priestly life, this book truly will inspire you in your discernment.
As I read through the book, I was amazed by the many breathtaking images which portray how wonderful and beautiful it is to be able to work in the name of Christ, bringing others closer and closer to Him. While reading and admiring the beautiful artwork, it really struck me that in each painting, it is evident that Christ is depicted in each priestly image.
As a priest, men are called by God to be just like Christ, to be Christ himself. The term for this is to become an “alter Christus”. We men are called to love people, to care for them, counsel them, pray with them and for them, just as Christ did. This is the image that this book successfully portrays through the use of many beautiful portraits of the priesthood.
According to the author, the book is arranged with “the first and principle part of a sermon by the Holy Father given in Poland and texts by Cardinal Medina and the Institute of Christ the King, the main collaborators on this book. This describes not only what the priest does, but moreover who he is. This is then followed by several chapters on the holiness and charity of the priest, and after two inspiring texts on the Mass, and one on the priest as a monk, several examples are given such as St Bernard, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, along with outstanding priests like St Maximillian Kolbe and Bl. Ivan Ziatyk, one who died at the hands of Nazism and the other during the insane years of Stalin in the Ukraine. Finally, the question of what is a vocation is answered just before the conclusion written by Cardinals Canizares and Burke.”
Every picture depicts the Catholic priest giving his entire being to Christ during the different stages in his life, as well as in the lives of the people he serves. Each picture is so masterfully depicted that is hard for me to pick a favorite. I will hold all of these paintings, produced by artists from all over the world, close to my heart, as they inspire me to discern my own vocation, and draw me into a deeper respect and love for the priesthood.
Receiving this book was so wonderful and I will always treasure it, and turn to it again and again. I encourage any one who is discerning a vocation to the priesthood to purchase this book. I promise you will enjoy it as much as I did. This book would make a wonderful ordination or anniversary gift for a special priest in your life. It may also be useful instrument in teaching the Catechism to children and young adults. Owning The Catholic Priest; The Image of Christ and perusing the many fine works of art depicted within would make one feel that every year should be the year of the priest.
The Catholic Priest; The Image of Christ is printed in Italy by Grafiche Flaminia, a company run by priests, and is available for purchase online through the following points below-
English: US+ Canada: Ignatius Press with Liamar: www.ignatius.com
Rest of the English speaking world: Gracewing: www.gracewing.co.uk
French: L’Oeuvre: www.oeuvre-editions.fr
Italian: Cantagalli: www.edizionicantagalli.com
Soon to be released in Spanish, Portuguese and German and will also be available for purchase at World Youth Day in Spain.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Roses for Our Lady is a lay organization in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with a thirty year history whose purpose is to "bring honor and glory to Jesus and Mary in the world today" through the promotion of authentic Marian Devotion-to Jesus through Mary. I have recently been elected president of this fine group and would love nothing better than to begin that position by introducing Roses, as it is affectionately called, to the world at large.
So without further ado, I invite you to please visit our brand-new website and I ask you to keep us in your prayers as we transition into this time of new beginnings and move forward into what will hopefully become another prayer-filled thirty years of devotion to Jesus through Mary!
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Finding myself with the gift of several solitary and unscheduled hours on a warm winter morning that felt delightfully like spring, I knew that I had better not waste it!
With the sun in my eyes, I drove to my favorite place-the lake. Trudging through the knee deep snow, I was delighted to find patches of sand and rock exposed, the product of winter's melting. I was standing in the purity of white snow, looking out upon the peace of blue water, and was drawn to the muck of rocks and sand. Beauty all around, easy to delight in, yet I look for the beauty that can only be found in the dirt, for that's where the real treasure is. How often our Lord himself used the dirt, sand and rocks to teach us lessons about faith!
"But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground." John 8:6-8
Writing on the ground to prevent the throwing of stones, how strange...and how strange it is to be here on the beach in winter! The downtown buildings that seem to be rising in the morning mist are contrasted against ducks flying close to the water, wings vibrating as they skim the surface. Waves searching for shore beneath the ice and snow produce a thumping sound as they retreat to their original location in the deep. I am completely and utterly alone. It's just me and God at the lake.
I think of the blind man who could see after Jesus applied mud made with saliva, as my eyes are now focused on the pockets of sand and rock beneath my feet, searching for the glittering jewels that I covet. Like a child playing a game of I Spy or Where's Waldo, I am determined to find and pick out the colorful sea glass hidden among the dirt.
And I walk on water! How is it that just two months ago the very place I stand would have had me waist deep in the lake? But now, I am on top of those waves looking at the earth that has surfaced through force of wind and water, looking for God and finding Him here. I crouch low to gather my rewards.
Hidden beneath the snow, down low amid the muck of winter sand, sea glass waits patiently for the taking. I fill my pockets with bits of color to be placed into clear jar containers, and each time I look at the jars of sea glass on the window sill, my heart thrills a bit.
And I know that as I travel through this life filled with the work of money to be earned, groceries to be bought, meals to be cooked, house to be cleaned, children to be nurtured, I will continue to search for God...and find him in the most unexpected places-places of beauty, yes, but also places of grime and dirt. For God is everywhere, just waiting for me to find Him.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
For Valentine's Day, my husband and I had a long overdue night out at the movies. Although we had received free movie vouchers months ago, we couldn't decide on a movie until I read the Deacon's Bench review of The Rite. My husband loves scary movies. I don't. When I was growing up my mom always told me not to watch movies about the devil because by doing so, you are allowing him access to your soul. Years ago, when Paul and I were still dating, he took me to a see a movie called The Prince of Darkness, despite my mother's warning. It truly was a good date movie, believe it or not, because I had my face buried in his chest the entire time while I prayed the Hail Mary over and over again! Nothing like fear to draw you close, is there?
Now, with the encouragement from the Deacon's words, I decided that I could handle this one and it would be a movie that both Paul and I would enjoy. As we passed the ticket taker at the theater he delighted in giving us the direction;"The Rite is on the left! Nice romantic movie choice for Valentine's Day!" :)
It was a good movie, it really made me appreciate my Catholic faith, but it freaked me out plenty as well! As we were leaving, I saw an usher from our parish and said "Makes me want to run right to church!" "I'll meet you there!" he replied. I wasn't the only one who felt the fear portrayed in that movie!
I haven't been able to stop thinking about The Rite all day today, and it has brought about an interesting discussion this evening between Paul and I. My favorite line from the movie was delivered by Anthony Hopkins' character to the young Seminarian in his charge near the very end. He said, "Faith becomes you." So I took those words to adoration tonight and held them before the Lord in prayer...
Faith Becomes You
When fear presses down and my thoughts turn to escape, I look to the Lord and hear Him say-
Faith Becomes You
When I'm misunderstood and others whisper behind me, I look to the Lord and hear Him say-
Faith Becomes You
When I forget who I am-a child of God, and behave in a sinful and scandalous manner, I look to the Lord and hear him say-Faith Becomes You
When stress and sorrows crowd around me everywhere I turn, I look to the Lord and hear Him say- Faith Becomes You
I sit before Him in His golden case recalling the words from a friend...
"Faith is resting in God's love, His presence and His provision."
And I become more like Him when I rest in His love, His presence and His provision.
Faith does become me. So, I carry the becoming of my faith in my heart as I leave His presence and when I am surrounded by fear, misunderstanding, sin, stress and sorrow, I will look to the Lord in faith and find that he is always present to me and I can rest...
I can rest.
Oh Lord, I waited long for this time with You. Thank You for the gift of Your restful presence. Thank You for the gift of my faith. Amen.
Monday, February 14, 2011
I wanted to go deeper...and He is giving me many opportunities to do just that, so many in fact, that I have already lost count and have resorted to listing without number...this week I am flinging my heart and praising God for...
~children falling ill like dominoes, requiring my patient care as I brush their fevered brows and whisper words that soothe, and the joy of watching them recover to full, robust health.
~patience with self when continually corrected by boss who had been silent for so long. Did I need her attention? Maybe so, for I'm learning to improve my efforts and to quiet my pride.
~a coworker who silently observes me over the years, bravely takes my hand and keenly notes that my disposition has changed from raging denial to quiet acceptance of my life. I hadn't known that the change in me was so obvious and was warmed by her willingness to share that with me.
~the monthly Holy Hour for vocations in our beautiful Seminary chapel, voices joined in prayer for a common cause.
~oldest son who calls after leaving the house to warn me that the walks are icy, knowing that I will be out the door shortly.
~the profoundly poetic words of Caryll Houselander.
~sons who teach me how to download music on the computer.
~younger friends who look up to me (me-can you imagine?) as a role-model for parenting advice.
~husband's strong yet gentle hands loosening the knots in my neck and shoulders.
~hearing words of thanks from a neighbor for a simple note and jar of jelly that was given during a time of need and learning that such a small gesture brought much needed joy during a time of grief.
~petting our guinea pig, Daisy, and being rewarded with purrs of appreciation.
~early morning solitude and silence while the family sleeps.
~teenage son who wears dress shirt and tie to Sunday Mass even though we wouldn't have required such formal dress
~knowing that on St. Valentine's Day and every day, I am loved beyond measure by the Lord.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
How closely and with such care does God watch over us! How blessed we are that he knows every detail about our lives!
My children all play basketball and one of our favorite family pastimes is to attend as many games as we can together. Someone always keeps stats for the sibling who is playing and we all become involved in the sport as we avidly watch the plays and cheer for the team. I wish that more gyms would offer a family price because paying for six of us to watch the seventh play can get pretty pricey at times! But no matter the cost, the great value of spending time together every weekend as a family will outlast any temporary damage to our pocketbook.
A few years ago, the six of us were lined up on the bench watching John, the oldest, play. It was with a bit of trepidation that Paul and I had recently purchased contact lenses for John so that he could avoid the hassle and worry of wearing glasses while he played. John always puts his all into playing and as most players do, gets physically jostled about quite a bit during the game. At this particular game, he had just been bumped hard by another player and my husband suddenly stood up and walked down the bleachers and onto the court. He held up his hand to stop the game. I couldn't imagine what in the world he was doing! Paul is not the type of man who looks for attention or who would ever interfere with a game. I knew that John wasn't hurt in that recent jarring, so why would Paul just get up and go to him during a game, without a word to the rest of us?
What Paul saw, that no one else on the team or on the sidelines noticed was that when John was bumped, one of his contacts popped out of his eye and fell to the floor. Paul walked right over to the place where the contact had fallen, and picked it up. How in the world did he see that? Even John wasn't immediately aware of what had happened!
As providence would have it, one of the referees had some contact lens solution in his pocket and John cleaned the lens and went right back to playing.
In that particular instance of my husband's close observation of our son, I saw a reflection of God's constant close attention to us all. Not a hair on our heads is left uncounted, not a speck in our eye goes by unseen. He is forever watching us with tender love, ready to step in and bring guidance to our mishaps so that we can work to repair the damage to our bodies and souls, no matter how slight the harm may be. We have a God who knows us in every minute detail; a God who is forever waiting to lift us up and brush us off when we fall, and then give us a boost so that we can start all over again.
"You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me." Psalm 139:1-5
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Heavenly Bride Groom,
we come before you as husband and wife.
Pleading this day for the necessary graces to carry on
in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,
until the hour of our death.
I promise to be the guardian of my spouse in all things spiritual
so that someday we may enter the Kingdom together.
Bless us this day, body and soul, so that one day
we may be worthy of celebrating with you
at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Isn't it terribly romantic that World Marriage Day and St. Valentine's Day fall so closely together on the calendar? If we're lucky, Fr. Dave, our pastor, will invite all of the married couples to renew our wedding vows at Mass this weekend. I would marry Paul all over again, so I do hope we will be renewing our vows. Over the years, I have found him to be romantic in ways I never imagined he would be when we were first married nearly twenty years ago. It's the little things-the compliment on the scent of my newest perfume, his ability to make me laugh even in the most serious of situations, giving needed space when I'm cross, willing to tell me the hard things I need to hear-even when I don't want to hear them-just to keep me on the straight and narrow in life, letting me be who God made me to be-even when he'd rather make me into who he wants me to be.
Paul is usually a hard rock guy. His favorite day of the week is when "House of Hair" is on the radio. Me, I prefer my music a bit more mellow. The other day I came home from some errands and a wonderful song was playing repeatedly on the CD player in the kitchen. It was "For My Wedding" by Don Henley. I had never heard it before. Paul came upstairs from the basement and asked me if I liked the song, and of course, I answered that I loved it! He mentioned that he felt that as the years passed, we were becoming more alike, because he loved the song, too, and it wouldn't have normally been in his taste repertoire. To me, there is nothing more romantic than growing old with your spouse, mellowing together like fine wine, understanding one another without having to use words. To know, live, work, pray and grow together over the years is a beautiful blessing from God, one that I hope I never take for granted. Here are some of the lyrics to "For My Wedding"...
For my wedding, I will dress in black
And never again will I look back
Ah, my dark angels we must part
For I've made a sanctuary of my heart
To want what I have
To take what I'm given with grace
For this I pray
On my wedding day
For my wedding, I don't want violins
Or sentimental songs about thick and thin
I want a moment of silence and a moment of prayer
For the love we'll need to make it in the world out there
To want what I have
To take what I'm given with grace
For this I pray
On my wedding day
On my wedding day
On this World Marriage Day and St. Valentine's Day, I join with Don Henley and pray that we will all want what we have and take what we are given with grace, regardless of our state in life. For as long as we are seeking to know the will of God and serve Him in all things, all people-children, adults, married, single or religious-will be living a life of grace, and that is the ultimate romance, the divine romance with God, our creator, who loves us more than any human ever could.
(a partial re-post from the archives)
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
With a poke of her finger
the child's blood oozed out.
She startled at the pain
but patiently cooperated
while together we watched
the hemocue vial fill with a drop
of her blood for the iron test.
With a bandage, a sticker
and a kiss from her mother
she was on her way-
proudly showing her wound
to anyone who would look...
With one stab of the lance
His blood flowed,
sticky and warm down
his thin, battered side.
There was no movement on His part,
no startled jerk in response
to the pain.
But it was she who winced
and grabbed at her own side
in a fruitless effort to stop
the pain she felt.
Unable to reach him
to give that motherly kiss
that takes away the pain,
she simply stood,
working against the swoon
and watching the drops of blood
as they splattered down.
One precious drop fell on her sleeve
and she wiped it with her forefinger.
Tears fell and mingled with the blood.
She gently rubbed the tears and blood
between her forefinger and thumb
as if that caress would ease the pain-
foretold so many years before
in those curious words-
"A sword shall pierce your heart"
-and now she understood-
two Sacred Hearts, one unbearable pain.
His blood, her tears,
poured out silently,
without an end.
And now...I reach
out my hands in my desire
my need to lessen His pain;
I receive His body, His blood,
into my own body
where it mingles with my blood
and is released in my tears.
My action of deep faith and love
does what she could not do
on that black day.
She couldn't ease His pain
or lesson her own sorrow then,
she takes my hand, leads
me to Him
and I become the one who
can kiss the hurt away
with my devotion
and my love.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I have been ravenously devouring the words of Caryll Houselander in the past few months as I make my way through all of her books. This passage from her autobiography, A Rocking Horse Catholic about her second Holy Communion after a long bout with psychological illness speaks to my heart today...
"On the night before He died, when He instituted the Blessed Sacrament, He gave Himself for all time into the hands of Peter-and into the hands of Judas. A further reason why this way, the way of Communion with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, is of such great value to those who are tortured by psychological suffering, is because it necessarily involves other human beings; someone must bring Christ to the sufferer, someone must give Christ to him. There are other ways, too, by which Christ has made Himself man's gift to man; the Mystical Body is planned for that. But this way, through sacramental communion and the Sacred Host, is at the heart of the mystery of God's love, and from it flows every other communion and Christ-giving between men.
It is because the psychological sufferer is always cut off, isolated by his self-torment, from his fellow creatures, that this is so valuable to him. God must be brought to him by another man; only God can reach that centre of his soul that must be touched if he is to be made whole, but God chooses to come to him in Communion only if he will receive Him from the hands of a fellow man."
How beautiful that we can only receive God through the hands of another human, and yet how terribly difficult this can be! For in our awareness of our sin, don't we feel most unworthy of not only the presence of Christ but also of the presence of our fellow human beings whom we most often sin against with our words and our actions?
Like Peter I want to cry out "Depart from me Lord, for I am sinful!" (Luke 5:8) And then I hide my face behind the crook of my arm, unable to bear the beauty of the Lord that is being offered to me. And Jesus gently pries my arm away from my face, and looks deeply into my eyes. He whispers "Don't be afraid, and don't hold back. It is precisely because of your sin that I am here for you."
How blessed we are that our Lord chooses to come to us, to live within us and to unite us to those from whom we often pull away because of our wretched sinfulness. It is only through His love given to us by others that we can taste heaven right now, here on earth.
Monday, February 7, 2011
My son John will be Confirmed this April and he has asked his friend, Fr. Matthew, who was ordained to the priesthood just last May, to be his Confirmation sponsor. Fr. Matthew has had a profound impact on John's life in the past few years. During his time in Seminary, he witnessed to John and to our whole family, the deep joy that he has for this vocation to which God has called him. As John's sponsor, he has spent a great deal of time with John at parish sponsored Confirmation meetings, in visits to our home and in time spent visiting with him individually. Recently he had invited John and his friend Jerry to join him for dinner followed by a Milwaukee Buck's basketball game.
The night of the game, my family and I, along with Jerry, attended the Saturday evening Mass at Fr. Matthew's parish. During that Mass, the parish offered Anointing of the Sick to anyone who desired the Sacrament. The anointing, which was held as part of the Liturgy itself, involved the entire community in the Sacrament. Those who were to be anointed were asked to stand and as the priest came to anoint him, those who were sitting nearby reached out to place a hand on his shoulder or arm in a physical sign of loving support. In this way, the entire community was drawn into prayer for those who were ailing and in need of the Church and her Sacrament for the sick. The significance of witnessing this anointing was brought to light for me in view of John's story about how the rest of the evening continued.
After Mass, before leaving for dinner, Fr. Matthew had to stop in his office for a few minutes. While there, he received a phone call asking him to stop at the hospital to visit someone who was dying. John and Jerry stayed in the hospital waiting room watching television for two hours, while Fr. Matthew attended to the dying man and his family.
By the time the hospital visit was over, there was no time for dinner, so they grabbed some food at the concession stand during the game. After the game was over and Fr. Matthew dropped John and Jerry off at home, he went back to the hospital to spend some more time with the family in need of the spiritual assistance that his presence provided.
Hearing this story from John deeply moved me. I think that the fact that John and Jerry, both of whom are discerning calls to the priesthood, were able to witness the love and care and time that Fr. Matthew brings to his vocation, was a real blessing for them. They had a first-hand opportunity to see the tremendous self-sacrifice that is involved in this sacred ministry. And I know that this moment in time was just a very small snapshot of the many, many ways that Fr. Matthew and all priests, are called to give of themselves for the good of the people of God whom they serve. Fr. Matthew, with sweat on his brow and love in his heart, offered the tassel on His cloak to the sick and the dying, at Mass-and again-at the hospital bedside. He gave the very real gift of Christ through his selfless service and his loving touch.
Our family has been greatly blessed with the gift of Fr. Matthew in our lives and for his presence, I am deeply grateful. So, to my list of weekly gratitude I add...
~Fr. Matthew and his fine example of priesthood
~family photos lining my desk at work, reminding me of love
~throat blessing on the Feast of St. Blaise, candles beside my face holding me in His grace
~sun streaming through the stained-glass windows of church after receiving the Lord in Holy Eucharist
~strong backs and strong arms to lift snow to banks of shoulder height
~visits with old friends and a chance to catch up on memories as well as what's new
~lessons learned about my sin-sick nature which cause me to remember my total dependence on God alone, for no one else can carry that ugly weight that I often inflict upon myself and others but the Mighty Redeemer
~the mania of five ecstatic children in my living room as the Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl 45!
Sunday, February 6, 2011
(photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images North America)
The final speaker at last weekend's Women of Christ Conference wasn't really there as a speaker, but rather, as one who would lead us all in prayer and worship. In saving the best for last, the conference organizers delivered a gem with Archbishop Listecki as the presider at Mass! His homily was outstanding! That holy man, who ends every single one of his columns and newsletters with the capitalized and bold words LOVE ONE ANOTHER, is himself, a perfect example of the Christian love to which we all strive.
I have searched in vain to find the source of Archbishop Listecki's list of "Reasons to Raise Children in the Catholic Faith" which he shared in his homily, so I am assuming that the list originated with him. Here is my attempt to share his words of wisdom from the few notes I quickly jotted down.
"Why to Raise Children in the Catholic Faith"
1. To give them rules to reject as teens.
2. To give them rules to reconsider when they have kids of their own.
3. To give them values to cherish.
4. To give them something to hang on to in hard times.
5. To have a raggedy "good news" bible to read when older and much more interested in reading the bible.
6. To learn that everyone wears the face of Christ in a different way.
7. To have faith in community.
8. To learn that Christmas is about the gift of love in our hearts.
9. To understand that Jesus' death and resurrection means that life is more than suffering.
10. To understand that heaven begins on the spot where they are standing, that they are here for God and that God is always with them.
In addition to these words of wisdom from that very holy man, and to the uplifting words I have previously written about from Fr. Larry Richards and Immaculee Ilibagiza, there were many more little moments of grace throughout the day:
~during the course of the day I gave out over 500 fliers promoting the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests and encouraged quite a few women to add their names to my email list so that I might send them information about the apostolate from time to time. My greatest joy was when Vicki Thorn, one of the conference organizers, the founder of Project Rachel and the emcee for the day, mentioned that if the devil wanted to hurt the Church he'd go after our priests, therefore, praying for our priests is one of the most important and loving things that we can do for our Church. As she spoke those words, I was standing on the side of the conference hall filled with thousands of women and I realized that I had quite a few fliers with me in my purse. While everyone roared out thunderous applause at her words, I took advantage of the situation and worked the crowd by handing out my fliers. For me, that was a moment of great fun and joy and I am very thankful to Vicki Thorn for conveniently and unknowingly handing me that opportunity!
~meeting a woman who had been pregnant 22 times, gave birth to 15 children and breastfed for over 30 years! Until she told me that she and her husband had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, I had thought that I was speaking to a woman who was in her 50's-she looked that great! When I told her so, she gave the credit to all of those pregnancies and the years spent breastfeeding her children-she said that all of those hormones in action have been very good to her! She said that her only regret in life was that although she has eight sons, not one of them is a priest. When she shared this sorrow with a priest who happens to be a friend of hers he told her that she and her husband were their own undoing in this case: they had such a beautiful marriage that all of their children wanted to aspire to that as well!
~watching one of the conference organizers, my friend Julie Sarnowski, in action. Seeing her moving about throughout the large conference hall in her efforts to keep things running smoothly during the event, I was amazed by her energy and inspired by her faith. I am so very grateful to her and to all of the conference organizers for putting together a day filled with grace for so very many women in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, a day which I will long remember and rejoice over!
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
It seems that I am in a continual battle with myself; just when I really think I'm somebody special, full of puffed-up pride and self-proclaimed importance, God loosens the leg on that wobbly stool of falsehood upon which I sit. Soon, I am tottering down to the floor as I am brought to remember that I am really a weak and small human being, one who makes frequent mistakes, wears her foot in her mouth far too often and is really very ordinary and simple, meant to be the servant of others; not the one being served. I am called to follow the example of our Lord and to make a humble presentation of myself before God and others.
That dynamic of the minority, the marginal, the weak, the least expected one somehow emerging from the bottom and becoming God’s chosen instrument to bring about the victory of salvation, mercy and freedom is abundantly present in the Scriptures. Abraham and Sarah are too old to bear children. Moses stutters. David is too young and unimportant to even be present at the feast. Mary is an unknown virgin from an obscure village. The apostles are fishermen, tax collectors or political zealots. God chooses the nobodies of this world to bear the triumph of his love.
In today’s first reading, Zephaniah proclaims that the Lord will leave a faithful remnant of people, humble, lowly, small and poor. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are not wise, powerful or noble and yet God has precisely chosen them to humble the proud, to reduce all human pretension, to show forth a new kind of power that only loves and serves rather than oppresses and shames. The Gospel is the familiar account of the Beatitudes where Jesus calls blessed the poor, the sorrowing, the meek, the merciful and those who suffer for the sake of righteousness.
Only those who have lived on the margin, experienced minority status of some kind, suffered in the dark, have had their hearts broken, watched their world fall apart, been pushed aside and ignored can taste the joy of Jesus’ beatitude. When we are complacent, satisfied, self-sufficient, insulated and powerful, it becomes so difficult to realize how much we need God and to let him act in our lives. As St. Augustine writes, those who have had their hearts torn up by the roots can know the mercy and truth of the Almighty.
How often and how painfully do I need to learn the lesson of the Beatitudes! In my human vulnerability, I seek security, popularity, money, certainty, status and comfort to cover over my poverty and fear. Time and again, the Lord allows life to strip me of what I so desperately cling to, so that I can grasp anew the fundamental paradox of the Gospel. I must be emptied out of self so that God can fill me. I must feel the despair of spiritual darkness so that I search for the light of Christ. I must be thrown on some cross of poverty and pain so that I can taste the sweetness of the resurrection. I must sense the dreadful absence of God in my sin so that I can cast myself on his mercy.
How exhausting it is always striving to be somebody in the eyes of the world, needing to impress, influence, be noticed. We step closer to the radical freedom of Jesus when we seek to be hidden in him, to be enveloped in his heart, to be part of the silent and often unnoticed torrent of divine love which nourishes the world. John the Baptist got it right when he said about Christ: He must increase and I must decrease. Humility sets us free to be our true selves, a reality both greater and smaller than we often imagine ourselves to be.
Almost 1800 years before the British surrender at Yorktown, an unknown pregnant girl exulted in a poetic proclamation that sang of a world turned upside down. In her Magnificat. Mary understands well that God always subverts the proud, the satisfied, and the pretentious by breaking in from the margins with unexpected grace and power, in ways often unexpected. The baby growing in her womb was the Word made flesh. Who could have ever guessed?
2. How have you experienced being marginalized? How do you see God’s grace in such moments?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Sorry that I couldn't embed the video here- but take a look at this link!