Thursday, June 30, 2011

Episcopal Symbols

With the new appointment of my friend, Fr. Don, as Milwaukee's newest Auxiliary Bishop Hying, I got to wondering about all of the clothes and symbols that a Bishop must don. (Did you catch the pun-heh!) My daughter, Mary, thinks it would be a good idea if someone would make a Bishop Barbie Doll that comes with all of the many vestments. She would like a church dollhouse to go with the doll, complete with an altar, the liturgical elements and pews filled with faithful dolls at worship. Sounds like a great idea to me!

(picture courtesy of litugical publications)

But what about all of those pontificalia, or items of attire, that Bishops wear? I began to wonder about the significance of the clothes, after all, the clothes do make the man, don't they? And now the man must strive to faithfully live up to the significance of all of the new and wonderful pontificalia of his office.

As a priest is ordained a Bishop, he takes a pectoral cross, a ring, a zuchetto, a mitre and a crozier as the symbols of his office. The pectoral cross comes from the latin, pectus, which means abreast, and it reflects the dignity of his office. The Bishop wears the cross hanging from a cord, close to his heart. Some pectoral crosses are made with relics of the true cross within them. "When putting on the pectoral cross, traditionally the bishop says, "Munire me digneris," asking the Lord for strength and protection against all evil and all enemies, and to be mindful of His passion and cross." (Fr. William Sanders, Symbols of the Office of Bishop, Catholic Education Resource Center)

The ring, worn of the fourth finger of the left hand, symbolizes the union of the bishop with his diocese, in the same way that a marriage ring symbolizes the union of husband and wife. In years past, the ring was dipped in wax to seal documents. Catholics have had a tradition of kissing the bishop's ring as a sign of reverence, and a partial indulgence was given for this act of devotion. I've never kissed a bishop's ring before, but perhaps it's time to start!

When it was the custom for a cleric's head to be tonsured, they took up the practice of wearing a zuchetto, or skull cap, to keep warm in cold and damp churches. The bishop's zuchetto is violet in color and today, out of tradition, is worn during Mass but is removed during the sanctus so that his head won't be covered in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

The mitre is only worn during liturgy and is a symbol of the bishop's authority as head and spiritual pastor. The word "mitre" comes from the Greek meaning "turban." There are three types of mitres known as Simplex, Pritiosa and Auriphrygiata, each made of different materials and used for different types of liturgy.

Fr. William Saunders has an excellent explanation of the significance of the shape of the mitre: "In the Latin Rite, the mitre originally was a headband with a veil, and eventually appeared more in its present triangular form pointing upward with two infulae or fans (two strips of cloth hanging from behind). Some suggest that the infulae originated from the sweatband that Greek athletes wore, which was wrapped around the forehead, tied behind the head in a knot with the two ends hanging down the back; since the victorious athlete was crowned with a laurel wreath, the whole headdress soon was seen as a sign of victory. The mitre took on a similar symbolic meaning. Such symbolism arises from St. Paul's analogy: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on a merited crown awaits me..." (2 Tm 4:7-8). Surely, the bishop should be leading his flock in the race to salvation to final victory in Heaven."

As shepherd of the flock, the crozier is carried during liturgical ceremonies. I like Fr. William Saunders explanation of the meaning behind the crozier: "St. Isidore explained that a newly consecrated bishop received the crozier "that he may govern and correct those below him or to offer support to the weakest of the weak." As one of those "weakest of the weak" I will look to Bishop Hying's crozier as a symbol of great support.

Finally, although it is not part of his pontificalia, the coat of arms is a very significant part of the episcopacy. The purpose of the coat of arms is to identify the bishop and his diocese. "Each coat of arms is personally designed by the bishop upon his nomination and includes his ethnic origin, previous service, devotions and interest. It is adorned with a shield, a galero(hat), tassels, cross, mitre, crozier, mantle and a motto." (Bishop's Insignias) Bishop Hying's motto is "Love never fails." To see Bishop Hying's coat of arms and learn about the significance behind his symbols, visit the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website here. Please keep Bishop Hying in your prayers as he prepares for his day of ordination which will be on July 20th.

Prayer (from Bishop's Insignias)

Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your Apostles to proclaim the Good News with Peter at their head and you strengthened them with the Holy Spirit. Remind us that our bishops are appointed by that same Spirit and are the successors of the Apostles as Pastors of Souls. Together with the Pope and under his authority they have been sent throughout the world to continue your work. Help our bishop to teach all members of his diocese, to sanctify them in the truth, and to give them your nourishment. Make us obey his teachings and love him as the Church obeys and loves you. May we remain united to him, growing in faith and love, and attain eternal life with you. Amen.

For a thorough listing of all Roman Catholic Vestments, visit the Catholic Doors Ministry.

Every Creature Under Heaven-A Guest Post by John Howard

I am delighted and overjoyed to share the words of my young friend and spiritual son from England, John Howard, who is just beginning his seminary career. Enjoy and learn from his words and then, please keep him in your prayers as he works and studies towards a life of service in the Church as a servant priest.

On Sundays and during vacation, I like to get to church about 40 minutes before Mass begins. No, it isn't to grab the best seat (I'm an altar-server, so seats are never an issue)! I love to use the tranquillity of the church and the presence of Jesus to meditate on the Sacred Scripture that is about to form part of the celebration. Somewhere I once read that when we attend Mass, we are fed from two tables: the table of God's Word and the table of the Eucharist. So it is vitally important that this Word is something truly alive and active in me. And it also gives me an opportunity to guess what the priest might be preaching about!

But in the last two months my spiritual director has introduced me to meditating on liturgical texts. These will never replace Scripture, but they are powerful texts and worthy of our time and love. It was St Benedict who urged us 'Let your hearts and minds be in tune with your voices'. I have begun by meditating on the Eucharistic Prayers, and especially number 4, which is my favourite. As my director explained, 'if you are going to become a priest, these prayers are the very foundation of your day... you act in persona Christi, and His words change humble bread and wine into the very presence of our friend, our brother and our redeemer, and at the same time the people are changed by the invocation of the Holy Spirit to become one body, one spirit in Christ'. As I see it, the danger is that we hear these prayers so often that the words just flow over us.

In the preface to Eucharistic Prayer 4, there is a passage which runs:-

"Countless hosts of angels stand before you to do your will; they look upon your splendour and praise you night and day.
United with them, and in the name of every creature under heaven, we too praise your glory....."

In the name of every creature under heaven! (The new translation of the missal says "giving voice to every creature under heaven"). I find that mind blowing! I'm not at Mass simply to further my own personal relationship with God, but to represent and give voice to all those who are part of God's creation, but may not have a voice to praise his glory!

Just recently Anne posted a story about her hometown and how the church there had closed because of dwindling numbers, and it is the same here in England. It bothers me that some people don't attend Mass, or appear to suggest that four times a year is more than enough! It upsets me that Catholics sometimes can't find time to offer one hour to God in a week, and, as a young person, I am in a minority in church where boredom is an over-worked excuse. In the name of every creature under heaven - I am here to represent you, to praise the glory of God, to pray for you and on your behalf. Nobody has been excluded from God's tender mercy - this particular phrase itself has scriptural roots and is found in Colossians 1:23. And then what about those who have been hurt by the Church through scandal, or those 'whose faith is known to you alone... and all who seek you with a sincere heart'?

But this liturgical text keeps on inviting me in and expanding my poor horizons, almost on a daily basis! Why stop at non-attending Catholics? Every creature under heaven! Why can't I also include those who live godless lives, those who pour scorn on the Church, those who are too ill to pray, those who force children to become soldiers, those who are destroying God's creation, those who exploit the poor, the aborted children who never had a chance to praise God's glory? And so each time I attend Mass, I try to include someone or some body of peoples that I have never prayed for before. The heavens are the limit!

If as Church, we are truly the Body of Christ, then we offer the world healing and redemption, and I can find no better way of doing this than through the sacramental re-presentation of Calvary by which we all became God's children, and so were enabled to praise his glory!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

And When I Die

"And when I die, and when I'm gone, there'll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on." ~Blood, Sweat and Tears

No visit to my hometown would be complete without a visit to my parent's grave site in Evergreen Cemetery. The highlight for my kids is in finding the trees the grow in the middle of the road in the shaded and well-cared for burial grounds. (Who plants a tree in the middle of the road?) The highlight for me is the opportunity to share memories of my parents with my children and to gather around their headstone in family prayer.

Visiting the cemetery always prompts Paul and I to talk about what types of funerals we might like to have when our time comes to pass and how we would like to be remembered. Paul is always sure to make a somber discussion into something joyful by making the family laugh as he talks about his desire for extravagant coffins and huge gravestones with life-size statues beside them. That is so not Paul!

I can never quite understand the need to show off once we're dead; does it really matter that a body without life is surrounded by silk in the finest mahogany casket only to be placed six feet below the ground where it will rapidly decay? I heard about "green" funerals not too long ago and I've decided that I want to be "green" when I'm dead. I tell the kids to bury me in a cardboard box out in the woods somewhere and whenever they miss me, they can just go for a walk in the woods to remember and pray for me.

Paul again, forever the lighthearted one, tells the kids to gather six banana boxes from the Aldi grocery store, line them up side by side, and just put me in there. It sounds strange and makes me laugh to think of it, but actually, it's quite fitting as those sturdy boxes are practically a symbol of my life! You see, my father worked at Weyerhauser Box Factory for many years and he had a fondness for boxes. I swear we had a whole room in our basement that was filled with boxes in which he organized everything from important files to my family's childhood toys. And he always brought his groceries home in a recycled cardboard box instead of a paper or plastic bag. He was "green" long before it was fashionable to be so.

Well, you know the saying, like father, like daughter, or the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, or should I say banana? Banana boxes are my favorite means of carrying home the family groceries from the Aldi Store each week as I always lug four banana boxes from my basement to the store, fill them with nutritious foods and lug them back home. They are useful for so many other carrying jobs as well, that it's not unusual to find me carrying a banana box filled with prayer books, donation baskets and rosaries to a Roses for Our Lady Holy Hour, or setting them out for the Salvation Army Thrift Store Pick Up Truck filled with the families discarded clothing! It makes sense that the boxes that are filled with so many symbols of my life would make a suitable container for my body as it leaves this world.

But as for the funeral Mass on the other hand, that's where my desires do become extravagant. My aunt Monica was the holiest woman I have ever known. She single-handedly and joyfully raised thirteen children and ran a farm by herself after her husband suddenly died when the youngest child was still a baby. She was a lay Carmelite, active in her parish, prayed outside of abortion clinics, and kept a weekly holy hour(her kids would tease her and say "Mom, we think you're just going to a happy hour each week," to which she would reply, "Child, when I'm keeping my holy hour, I am happy!") Monica was a daily Mass attendee and frequent world traveler in her later years. She died while leaving daily Mass on one of her travels. What a beautiful way to go, having just received the Body of Christ in Holy Communion and then immediately enter into eternal communion with the Lord!

At Monica's funeral the church was packed with over 400 people who stayed in the church for nearly three hours to share the stories of her life. There were three priests who officiated and every one of them was crying. It was a beautiful and holy occasion celebrating the life of a beautiful and holy woman.

And that is how I hope to leave this earth as well; lovingly remembered at a large funeral Mass with family, friends and at least three priests who all cry for me, and then bury me in six banana boxes in the woods, preferably near Lake Michigan where my remains will always be near the glistening water and the sparkling sea glass. Then, each time my family misses me, they only need to go for a walk in the woods near the lake and search for sea glass while they pray. My spirit will always be there.

For a Good Death

O most merciful Jesus, I praise and thank Thee for Thy most bitter death, and I beseech Thee, by Thy death and by the breaking of Thy Heart, to grant me a happy death. When my soul leaves my body, may it be immediately delivered from all sin, set free from all debt, and mercifully received into eternal joy. I know, O Lord, that I ask of Thee a very great favour, and a sinner like me ought not to presume to ask it; but it is as easy to Thy goodness to forgive few or many sins. It is not, indeed, our merits, but Thy infinite mercy that procures for us even the least share of heavenly beatitude. In order to be made worthy and fit to receive this favour, grant, O good Lord, that I may now truly and completely die to the world and to myself. From this time forth, may all appear to me worthless that is not Thee. May nothing interest me but Thee alone. For Thy sake may I look on everything with contempt, and may I rejoice when I am despised for Thee. O good Jesus, may I ever be wounded with Thy most pure and fervent love; may all that is not Thee be bitter to me, and may all that is pleasing to Thee become dear to me. Be Thou, my Lord and God, dearer to me than all besides, or rather, be Thou truly all in all to me."
~Dom John of Torralba, Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Heart of Jesus, Our Life and Resurrection

"In my little town I grew up believing God keeps his eye on us all...nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town..."
~Paul Simon

My family and I went back to my little hometown of Manitowoc, WI for my niece Melissa's wedding. Melissa was a beautiful bride and her marriage to Shawn was a joyous occasion. The weather was gorgeous after a week of steady rain. It was a lovely day. But, there was something about the day that broke my heart and marred that joy.

(Sacred Heart Parish dedicated in 1905 by Archbishop Messmer of Milwaukee, and school built 1908)

When I was growing up in the late 1960's through the early 1980's, Manitowoc was a thriving little factory town of about 40,000 people. My home parish was Sacred Heart where I attended first through sixth grade. Today, Sacred Heart Parish is no more, along with several other Catholic parishes and schools in the community where factories have shut down and the economy has long been depressed. In fact, all but three of the Catholic churches in Manitowoc have closed their doors. The community has four priests serving one parish (St. Francis of Assisi) and I'm told that the reason is because Catholics aren't going to church anymore. Why should the churches remain open if they are always nearly empty? Thankfully, one of the remaining churches is Holy Innocents parish which was built by my great-uncle, Fr. Edward Radey. It was nice to see some tangible evidence that his life's work remains alive today.

(Holy Innocents Parish built in 1933 and dedicated in 1950)

Then again, the priest shortage is another contributing issue. At the wedding reception I was telling my sister Diann about the new associate pastor at my parish. I was speaking of the blessing of having an associate pastor who includes the psalms in the daily Mass (our previous associate skipped over them) and who washes his hands before the consecration of the Mass; I know it's a little thing, but I like it. And Diann countered with, "You have two priests? That's kind of greedy, don't you think?"

I laughed at her question, but when the realization of her words sunk in, I laughed no more. At my sister's parish there is one priest who is shared by three churches and sadly, that is becoming the norm in more and more places. How hard these men must work to serve those whose faith remains and who long to praise and worship Him within the heart of the Church at their neighborhood parish. Sadly, I hear it told more and more often that daily Mass is a rarity and there are fewer weekend Masses offered at many churches. I guess I have been quite sheltered and spoiled to belong to a large parish that still has two priests, four weekend Masses and a daily 7 AM Mass as well.

As my family and I arrived home, I couldn't help but feel discouraged and defeated. I spend so much time trying to climb inside of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to feel His love for me, but maybe that's been a waste of time. Maybe what I should be doing is trying to get inside of his head. Tonight I stood in front of my life-size picture of His Sacred Heart and asked, "What do you want? What do we have to do to keep Your Church alive and vibrant? How can we fill the pews and bring in more good and holy priests? How can we please you? What is your will?"

Waiting for His response to those difficult questions is going to take great patience and trust, after all, those churches didn't close overnight, the lack of faith that caused so many to leave the Church wasn't lost in a single event and the shortage of good and holy priests took years to develop. Patience and trust are hard to hold on to when so much emptiness seems to abound.

"Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us. In the face of every expression of death, Christ's Heart was deeply moved, and for love of the Father and mankind, his brothers and sisters, he made his life a "combat stupendous" (Roman Missal, Easter Sequence) against death. With a single word he restored physical life to Lazarus, to the son of the widow of Nain, and to the daughter of Jairus; by the strength of his merciful love he gave spiritual life back to Zacchaeus, to Mary of Magdala, to the adulterous woman, and to all those who acknowledged his saving presence." ~Pope John Paul II Prays the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us; breathe your single word upon your Church, restore our life. Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us; strengthen us with your merciful love. Amen.

Mary's Birthday

I can't believe it-my baby is ten! How swiftly fly the years!

and she gazes in the distance
His glorious face to see
she lives her life on the solid Rock
her love for Him strengthens me

I love my precious daughter
the joy of all my days
she fills my life with sunshine
from her sweet and tender ways

born on a day of remembrance
my own dear mother's day of birth
my beloved daughter Mary
fills my days with mirth

for ten years God has blessed me
with her kind and endless love
my daughter is an angel
a gift from far above

she wraps her arms around me
her kisses are so dear
sweet God I thank you for Mary
forever hold her near

Friday, June 24, 2011

Camp Jeremiah

It's that time of year again...time for St. Francis de Sales Summer Camp for boys who are considering the priesthood. My son Jack attended the middle school Camp Jeremiah with my great-nephew, Carson. Carson was a rookie camper this year, so Jack took him under his wing, since he had attended last year as well. The middle school camp was host to 26 boys this year-a record number! Camp Jeremiah was hosted by St. Francis de Sales Seminary's Vocations Director, Fr. Peter Berger, along with Deacon Ryan Preuss and seminarians Michael and Patrick. Of course, the camp would not be complete without the assistance of the Vocation's Office phenomenal administrative assistant, Susi Kurek. The weekend included opportunities for confession, time for adoration, praying the rosary at the Seminary Grotto, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Stations of the Cross, Liturgy of the Hours, Mass and lots of fun!

This year the camp concluded with a Mass in Christ King Chapel for the campers and their families. After Mass, the first thing Jack told me was that part of the camp included a talk by Bishop-elect Donald Hying, who concluded the session by blessing everyone's rosaries. On the long drive home from the seminary, Jack clutched his blessed rosary tightly in his hand and once we settled in back home, he gave his rosary to me, telling me that it would be a wonderful keepsake for me since my dear friend had blessed it. My youngest son, he is so sweet, loving and sensitive; if God wills it, he will make a fabulous priest some day!

The True Fountain of Youth by Bishop-elect Donald Hying

A reflection on the Feast of Corpus Christi by Bishop-elect Donald Hying originally published in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald 6/23/11

One of the early Spanish explorers, Juan Ponce de Leon is famous both for naming Florida and his search for the fabled fountain of youth. Legends of some magical elixir which could stave off aging and death abounded in the European Age of Discovery and propelled more than one expedition to the Americas. These myths and journeys speak of the innate human desire for immortality that abides deep within all of us. We all want to live forever.

Today’s feast of Corpus Christi proclaims Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life, the One who offers us eternal union with God in the kingdom of heaven. In John’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims His flesh and blood to be the great antidote against the power of sin and death. “He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal and I will raise him up on the last day.” In the Eucharist, God fulfills our desire for immortality beyond all of our expectations. When we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we digest within ourselves the great power of Jesus’ resurrection which is life eternal with God, a glorious existence freed from the corruption of sin and death.

I am reading a fascinating book, “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist,” by Brant Pitre, a Scripture scholar who teaches at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. The author develops the connection between the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness and the Eucharist in several ways. As clearly articulated in the book of Exodus, manna was a heavenly bread, given by the Lord to sustain the Israelites during their long sojourn through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The manna stopped when Israel entered the land of Canaan, but a pot of it was preserved in the Tabernacle. Its mysterious appearance on the face of the desert every morning and its distinctive flavor proclaim the manna as a new and supernatural sign of the Lord’s providential care of His people. Even its name, which comes from the Hebrew “man hu” meaning “what is it” tells us that this bread was no ordinary phenomenon.

Pitre goes on to quote many rabbinical writings which articulate the belief held by some Jews of Jesus’ time that the manna would return at the coming of the Messiah and would serve as a sign of the Messianic age. This belief helps us to understand today’s Gospel, as Jesus refers to Himself as the new manna, “the living bread come down from heaven.” The manna does reappear as the flesh and blood of the Messiah Himself. Just as the Israelites were fed and sustained by the hand of the Lord until they reached the Promised Land, so too we are spiritually nourished by the Bread of Life until we pass through the mystery of death into eternal life.

Belief in the Eucharist requires great faith. To believe that ordinary bread and wine become, through the power of the Holy Spirit at Mass, the sacramental Body and Blood of the risen Christ is a pretty tall order. But maybe faith in the Eucharist is sometimes a struggle because it seems too good to be true. Can God really love us that much, that He would humble Himself by becoming so small and vulnerable in a tiny host and a sip from the chalice? Can my life be so valued by God that His greatest desire would be to abide within me, to literally become one with my flesh, blood and soul? Perhaps, I can only believe in the Eucharist to the extent that I believe that God loves me. I am convinced that the only reason Catholics would stay away from the Eucharist is that they either do not understand or do not believe. Once we have faith in and knowledge of this Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus who comes to us in Word and Sacrament to feed us, to live within us, to offer us eternal life, how could we ever absent ourselves from the Eucharist?

The Church will be renewed to the extent that each Catholic discovers and lives the great secret of the Eucharist, that the risen Lord desires this intimate communion with us, this love relationship which will propel us into eternal glory. The true fountain of youth flows daily at your local parish church. Go, eat and drink and live forever!

1. How can you deepen your faith in the Eucharist? How can you witness that faith to Catholics who do not attend Mass?
2. What are the social implications of the Eucharist? If the Lord abides in all of us, how must we live and act with each other?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Heart With Jesus

"Here we see the goal toward which by its very nature the devotion to the Sacred Heart tends-to have one heart with the heart of Jesus, to surrender oneself wholly, that is, to give up all self-seeking, to forget oneself entirely in order to live only by that fire which the love of Jesus has enkindled in us, to live by His love, to live through His love, to live for His love."

"If the pure sentiments of Christ are to live in us, we may love nothing created, absolutely nothing at all, for its own sake, but only for God's sake; we must purify our hearts of all love of earth, because only a detached heart can love God as the heart of Jesus loved Him. We may love men, we must love all men, we must love some more than others; but the motive and the measure of our love must be the love of God....this is, of course, the highest perfection, and it is questionable if we shall ever attain it fully in this life. Yet all our efforts must be directed toward it...Freedom from all deliberate attachment to creatures for their own sake is, therefore, the second degree of union of our hearts with the heart of Jesus."

~Our Best Friend, Christian Pesch, SJ

"Lord of infinite mercy, through this Wound of intense love, through this Wound so great that it can contain the earth, the heavens, and all that is therein, I unite my love to Thy Divine love, in order that, in this way and by it, my love may be made perfect, may lose itself in Thine, and be blended with it as two metals liquefied by fire and mixed together form but one. May our two wills become only one, or rather, may mine be wholly united to and always in perfect conformity with Thine. Into the burning furnace of Thy Heart, into this Wound of love, I cast my affections, my inclinations, my thoughts and my desires, that all that is covered with rust and defilement, all that is imperfect and in disorder, may be destroyed by the flames. Then will my heart, all cleansed and renewed, be wholly consumed in Thee and for Thee."

~Lanspergius from Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today begins the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May we all have one heart with Jesus! Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in thee!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seven Bridges Trail

"Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature."

We cross the bridge
and enter into the cool
of the lush green woods

enveloped by
silence and beauty
and peace

the path ends
at a washed out bridge
and we backtrack around the creek
to find another way
to the lake
roaring and majestic

the icy waves crash to shore
and lap at my feet
splashing ever closer
trying to capture me

they are like grief
overtaking my heart
drowning my joy

and before I lose myself
too deeply
in that dark thought
I hear my children cry

"storm clouds are coming
please let's go"
and I reluctantly follow

leaving the search
for my treasured sea glass
and the thoughts
of my aching heart

I re-enter the wood
and leave my grief
to yesterday
knowing that His walk
with me will always

lead me to beauty
and love
if only I trust
in His lead

"May the God given peace of this leafy solitude rest upon and abide with thee."

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Community of Catholic Bloggers

Joining with Holly and Paying it Forward: (click on Holly's name for the link)

There are some wonderful and holy bloggers who have joined together in community to share a blog of faith. The most recent posting by Barb Schoeneberger is an amazing reflection on the True Presence and includes a ten minute video about a Eucharistic Miracle in Argentina. It's truly amazing! And who knows, if you visit the site frequently, you may even find a post or two by yours truly, a contributing writer to the group blog. The following words by Mary at A Beautiful Gate (click on blog name to link!)describe this site very well:

"Last week, a few Catholic Bloggers and I joined together and started a new blog called the Community of Catholic Bloggers.The blog is up and running and I invite all my blogging friends to visit this new site. I also ask for your help in spreading the news about this community. Without the help of our fellow Catholic bloggers our goal of sharing Christ's love with others becomes far more difficult and, so I ask, in the spirit of Catholic unity, for your help in getting this blog off the ground.

Here are some ways you could help:
- by adding our link or banner to your sidebars
- by inviting your friends to visit
-by following the new site.

I also ask for your prayers - that we may glorify God through our posts and draw others closer to our Lord.In the coming weeks we will be adding new authors and guest bloggers to the Community of Catholic Bloggers and I invite those who would like to participate as guest bloggers to contact me. We are looking for faith-based articles that focus on unity, community, prayer, and anything that contributes to the building up of the Church. The only thing we ask is that the posts be written in a spirit of charity and respect and that the writers avoid issues that cause dissension in our Church.I thank you ahead of time for any help you can give us. I am always touched by the wonderful support of the Catholic blogging community and the incredible outpouring of help that I always receive when asking for prayer and support. May God bless each and every one of you.

Many thanks to Victor and Karinann for all their hard work in setting up this site!"

Please visit the Community of Catholic Bloggers(click here!) and Pay it Forward(click here!)!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Silent Man

"We celebrate Father’s Day. The sacred word “father” implies “mother.” ...These words are so basic that they’re the first ones a baby says; so foundational that they’re among the first words of the Creator recorded in the Bible." ~Archbishop Dolan

The Silent Man

I remember his wrinkled hands,
fingertips calloused from glucose testing,
nails yellowed with age,
hint of dirt beneath them from working in the garden.

Forty-three years old the day I was born
an old man, and yet a new father
ninth time around for him, an expert father by now.

I suppose he expected me to be like all the rest,
wild and naughty;
and I was-
I made sure to cause him to lose his hair,
lose his sleep, possibly lose some sanity, too.

Like all my siblings before me
he raised me the same-
quietly, with few words.

A pat on the head each morning
while eating my lumpy oatmeal
was the love he gave me
on his way to work;
"bye now" and he was gone-

-until he was too sick to work in the factory,
too sick to drive a cab,
too sick to spend much time outside of the hospital.

Months passed in diabetic comas
my quiet father, now silent;
wild daughter, now invisible;
shaken by the threat that dad won't live long.

Returning home with a brain damaged by his illness
his tolerance worn thin,
wild daughter was now "damn kid!"
and those hands came at me with swats
instead of pats.

The threat of near-death that hung over our heads
never arrived and he lived to be eighty-three.
In his old age, I silently sat with him;
watched those weathered hands
finger the rosary, often losing track of his place
as he would doze off to sleep.

Finally the day came when those hands could do no more-
no more finger pokes for glucose tests,
no more gardening,
no more cooking oatmeal,
no more love pats,
no more swats,
no more fingering the rosary.

I held his worn and wrinkled hand,
feeling the bones beneath the dry skin
noticed him squeeze my hand as I whispered
"I love you, Dad."

I watched as the silent man
whose hands were now silent, too,
held a rosary without praying,
as the lid was the closed
and the silent man was no more.

(A re-post from February 2010)

~Missing my dad who passed from this life five years ago and noticing how sometimes, my Heavenly Father can be as silent as my earthly father had been. Treasure your father if he is still with you! Honor him with prayer if he is not! Happy Father's Day to all dads! For a brilliant and flawless reflection on Fatherhood and the Trinity, please visit Dr. Lilles at Beginning to Pray.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stay in Your Cell

"What we have committed ourselves to constitutes a monastic cell. When we are faithful to that, namely, to the duties that come to us from our personal relationships and our place of work, we learn life's lessons by osmosis. Conversely, whenever we betray our commitments as they pertain to our relationships or to our work we become less than what we are.

We are all monks and it matters not whether we are in a monastery or are in the world as spouses, parents, friends, ministers in the church, teachers, doctors, nurses, laborers, artisans, social workers, bankers, economic advisors, salespersons, politicians, lawyers, mental health workers, contractors, or retirees. Each of us has our cell and that cell can teach us what we need to know." ~Ronald Rolheiser (Lessons from the Monastic Cell)

For the past fourteen years I have worked as a nutritionist for the WIC Progam (Women, Infants and Children.) I love helping young mothers to learn about eating well as a means to care for themselves and their children. It's great when I can mentor them, sharing my own parenting experiences and reassuring them that they are wonderful mothers, performing a difficult vocation to the best of their ability. I have a close friend at work whose office is directly across from mine. Melissa and I will often lean back in our chairs and talk across the hall to one another between clients. Working with her brings me great joy. Most mornings I look forward to going to work with enthusiasm.

But on Thursdays....on Thursdays it's hard to muster that same spirit of vigor for my work. Thursday used to be my day off and it was my favorite day of the week. I would attend Mass, purchase the family groceries, work out and then return home to find that the Catholic Herald had arrived and I would voraciously pore through it while eating my lunch. But schedules change and now I work on Thursdays while Melissa does not, so my end of the hall is quiet and lonely at work. Moreover, Thursdays are always the slowest day of the week. We don't usually certify families for WIC benefits on this day and instead it is the day when clients come to pick up their WIC vouchers (checks for healthy foods in the grocery store and at Farmer's Markets) and maybe have a quick weight check or iron check and then meet briefly with myself or one of the other nutritionists. Thursdays drag. And to make matters worse, my boss has asked me to spend the majority of Thursdays sitting in the waiting room, greeting the clients as they come in and reviewing the "Nutrition Topic of the Month" with them, which this month happens to be "Fast Food." It is a dull and dreaded job for me.

I've been trying to gain some spiritual growth from my dislike of Thursdays. I tell myself the words that my dear friend Danette always likes to say-"God has you right where He wants you." I try to sit quietly in the waiting room and pray the rosary while I wait for clients to arrive. I try to drown out all distracting thoughts from my mind and focus on "staying in my cell." Despite my best efforts, I find that overcoming the discomfort and dislike that I have for my job on Thursdays is a very difficult challenge and by the time my workday is over I arrive home in a foul mood.

But recently, I met someone who is in a different type of cell which put my Thursday predicament into a whole new light...

At first glance of the chart I thought that I was about to work on a typical postpartum certification-new mom (non-breastfeeding) with her five day old daughter. This was an experienced mom who had another daughter who was four years old and the only complaints listed with this past pregnancy were the normal nausea and a struggle to quit smoking. When I went to the waiting room and called her name, she didn't respond. I called again and her boyfriend nudged her and she finally got up and came with her family to my office.

Shonice had a flat affect to her appearance and she didn't answer me when I would speak to her. After giving her a chance to try to answer my questions, Derek her boyfriend and the father of the baby, finally spoke up and told me that within the first day after Neveah was born, Shonice went into a severe postpartum depression and has been nearly unresponsive. They had just come from the psychiatrist who diagnosed her with the depression as well as schizophrenia and bipolar disease. The doctor gave Shonice some type of shot and assured Derek that she would be more like her usual self within a few days. It was a tragically sad situation that makes me cringe at the realization of how vulnerable women can be to their hormones. I might have been complaining about my cell in the waiting room, but Shonice was in an entirely different type of cell from which she could not find spiritual, emotional or physical solace on her own; she was now completely dependent on others. (names have been changed)

It's a fact of life that we all will find ourselves in cells from time to time, maybe those of our own choosing or perhaps those from which we did not have a say, and the best we can do is to accept our lot in life, work to survive it if we are able and offer it all to God as a sacrifice of love. I pray that I will find the strength to cope with my "Thursday cell" as well as the other life cells in which I find myself, in a fashion that is more pleasing to God, without squirming in restlessness or complaint, but understanding that the longer I remain in my cell and accept it as the will of God for my life, the more deeply I am growing into a true and more loving union with the Lord.

What kind of cell do you find yourself in?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Seven Quick Takes-Joey Edition

It was 15 years ago today that God saw fit to bring my precious son Joey into the world. So this quick takes is totally devoted to him!

1. Last week in the quick-takes I mentioned how wonderful he looks with his new haircut. I'm still enjoying his shorn locks even though he styles them into what he calls a "Joehawk"-very pointy on top.

2. Although Joe prefers to call himself the "favorite son," the poor boy often bears the label of "the rebellious son," often successfully fighting tooth and nail to get his way and bend the rules, so Paul and I always tell him that he will make a good lawyer. But in my heart I pray that if he does go into law he will serve the Church and choose canon law.

3. Joe is also the son who complains the most about going to church and having to suffer the torment of being raised by an overly religious mother (aka "Jesus freak") So I am extremely joyful that he has asked me to wake him at 6:00 AM every day this summer so that he can join me at daily Mass followed by a quick trip to the YMCA for a workout. I was thinking of quitting the YMCA membership so as to put that money towards the Catholic school tuition, but now I see that it is money well spent if it brings my teen to daily Mass during his summer vacation!

4. What does it take to get Joe interested in his faith? Couple it with sports! Last spring Deacon Ryan Preuss and seminarian Kurt Krauss put together an awesome weekend camp called "The Remnant" which combined faith and basketball. Joe attended, a bit reluctantly, it's true, but it was here that he learned about St. Sebastian, the patron saint for athletes. (He is patron saint of athletes because of his physical endurance and his energetic way of spreading and defending the Faith.~Catholic Online) On the first day that Joe returned from camp he insisted that I take him to our local Catholic goods store to purchase a St. Sebastian medal which he had blessed and has been wearing every day ever since. He also inspired my son Jack to ask for and wear a St. Sebastian medal as well.

5. Joe is extremely creative. He told me that one way he can become more interested in the life of the Church is by looking at it as a sports team. Our associate pastor, Fr. Dennis, had previously been a pastor of a parish before coming to St. Matthias four years ago. This weekend will be his last with us as he he has been re-assigned as pastor of another parish. Joe says that Fr. Dennis reminds him of football star LaDainian Tomlinson from the Chargers who had a lead position as running back (the star of the team according to Joe) but was put into a lesser position behind the quarterback (which position Joe compares to Fr. Dave-the pastor) and then went to the Jets and became a star player once again. So in Joe's eyes Fr. Dennis is now a star player! He also looks at the seminarians as rookies in training camp under the coaching abilities of Fr. Don, the rector, or head coach. Whatever keeps him interested in the faith is a good thing, right?

6. Joe has always been a good role model and tutor for his two younger siblings. He spends a great deal of time helping them study, reading to them and encouraging them to be their best. Again, he draws on his creativity to keep them engaged, for example, a few years ago at daily Mass when the three of them were all still attending St. Matthias School, he came up with a numbers game using the song number for the communion song. If Sister Doris would announce that the song is number 804, Joe would add the 8 plus the 4 and say that the song was for Jack because he is twelve years old. The game continues even today as Jack and Mary still play using addition, subtraction, multiplication or division to determine which family member is honored by the song number of the day.

7. I've posted this several times before, but it still makes me smile each time I re-read it. It'll make you smile, too. Please pay a visit to this link and enjoy Joe's awesomely creative story- Mr. Blart, written for an eighth grade school assignment.

Happy 15th Birthday Joey! I love you! You'll always be one of my favorite sons!

Visit Jennifer for more quick takes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Core-A Prayer for the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Every morning when I wake, a feeling soon begins to overtake me. Ringing in my ears resounds through my brain; it finally surrounds me. There is fire, there is life, there is passion, fever and fury. There is love and there is hate, there is longing, anger and worry.

Oh, I have a flame; feel it touch my heart. And down at my core is the hottest part. I can run without fear.

~Eric Clapton, The Core

I know a former priest who didn't care for Christian music very much, but he told me that all music can be prayer, even secular music. He said that love songs can be looked at as words between God and all of His children. My husband Paul and I used to have so much fun with that thought. When we'd go on long family drives across the state for camping vacations we'd play a game called "is it a prayer or not?" for every song we'd hear on the radio. Some songs were easily prayers, others were about as far from prayer as you could get.

Recently my children and I spent some time at the public library and as I was browsing through the CD's I found a greatest hits CD from Eric Clapton. Although The Core was not on that CD, it has always been my favorite Clapton song, (it was a thrill to hear him perform it live back in the day at Milwaukee's Summerfest) and today as I looked at the lyrics, I see that this song is a very apt prayer for the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and it perfectly describes the practice of devoting one's day to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the intentions of Pope Benedict a'la the Apostleship of Prayer. (This month the Pope's intentions are for all priests and for missionary vocations.)

My dearest friend Danette has given me a large and beautiful picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I've put it in my bedroom at the foot of my bed so that when I wake in the morning, my beautiful Jesus is the first thing I see. His image always prompts me to pray the "Morning Offering" and in this prayer I am giving Jesus all of my fire, life, passion, fever and fury. I give Him my love, hate, longing, anger and worry. (Quite a bit of that worry part, to tell the truth!) And I do have a flame, it's the fire that burns in the Sacred Heart of Jesus to which I can turn at any time I am in need of His warm love, and with it I can easily run without fear.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you!

(Wish I had an embed code, but enjoy the live version with some great Clapton pics at this link.)

The Sincerity of a Server

I rouse my son from sleep
before the light is full,
fingers brushing the blonde
of his hair, whispering,
"Get up for Mass."
It takes two tries
before he responds.
He quietly dresses
without waking the others.

We race into the rain
and arrive as the rosary begins;
he scrambles to the sacristy
to prepare the altar.

He never fails to bring the
cruets down with a loud click
on the glass table, causing
distraction to those
praying the rosary.

Our voices drone on in prayer
as my son continues
his work of preparation.

As Mass begins,
he stands stoically, holding the
sacramentary in his hands
as Father prays the words within,
and during the readings
he silently watches from his seat
behind the altar.

He smooths out his alb
during Father's homily
as he stifles a yawn.

I watch as he carefully opens
the tabernacle doors to bring
the hosts to the altar.
His work here is holy, blessed
and beautiful.

When Mass is over
the church ladies rush
to hug him, beaming with pride
and gratitude, the earthly reward
for the boy who rises early
on a summer day to
serve the Lord with sincerity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Into the Depths

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" ~Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It was six months ago when I wrote about how I wanted to go DEEPER into self-acceptance in 2011 and how I was going to use St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Four Degrees of Love and the assistance of my spiritual companion for the year, St. Teresa of the Cross (Edith Stein,) to help me along my journey into the DEPTH of my soul and into the heart of self-love. It's often all too easy to forget about our goals and desires for our spiritual growth when we get caught up in day to day living and when the challenges come along it's all too easy to cast aside those goals as unimportant and meaningless, to give up without a fight when the going gets tough. Sometimes it takes a major event to cause us to wake up and listen to God's voice, His call for change in our lives or for acceptance of our lives as they are.

So I'm surprised that I "missed the boat" so to speak at the time that I wrote it, but yesterday's post, Get Out of the Boat, about my friend Bishop-elect Hying, is prophetic for his life it's true, yet it is also prophetic for my life, for I see that I, too, am called to step into the vast DEPTHS of God's love in new and more meaningful ways through the simple continuation of my very ordinary life.

As Fr. Don steps out of the boat and into the DEEP of the episcopacy, the ripple effect of his wake will bring his touch to many, many more lives; and at the same time, it will possibly leave a hole in the boat where his life touched mine. Unless I want to sink with the ship I will need to step out into the DEEP as well. Could this major change in the life of my friend be God's way of calling me to become ever more serious about my spiritual goals? Could the fact that this call from God is occuring during the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus be His gentle way of telling me that the DEEP into which I am to enter is the DEPTH of His great love for me and to there discover the opportunity to take another step into St. Bernard's Four Degrees of Love? And so I revisit my prayer from the cusp of 2011~~

O God, on this threshold of a new year, a year in which I want to go DEEPER into knowledge and love of myself so that I may grow DEEPER in knowledge and love of You, I ask You to guide me, slowly, patiently, gently into the DEEP where I will openly receive every good gift which You desire to bestow upon my weak and fragile heart, even the gifts which don't feel so good at first, those that might cause me pain in the growth. Open my heart to love of self for Your sake, not for mine. And along the way, when I stumble and fall, as I am sure to do, remind me that I am not a failure as long as I remember to take all of my efforts and place them into Your loving hands as an offering of my self, the very self that You have always loved. Amen.

~~and I see that He has answered that prayer, gently leading me into the DEEP so gradually that I barely noticed it. Surely I have grown into a DEEPER self love, and thereby love of God, through continued attendance at daily Mass, through returning to daily exercise and healthy diet, through greater service to my neighbor with work in the pro-life effort, through DEEPER devotion to the Eucharistic Lord and the Blessed Mother with my involvement in Roses for Our Lady and through DEEPER service to the Church in promoting and praying for Vocations and Priests with the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests.

"The limitless loving devotion to God, and the gift God makes of Himself to you, are the highest elevation of which the heart is capable; it is the highest degree of prayer. The souls that have reached this point are truly the heart of the Church."
~Edith Stein

And now, seeing that His time is right (for with Him it is always right,) He bids me to get out of the boat of comfort and complacency in which I've perched for far too long, and so I close my eyes, take a DEEP breath, the very breath that Christ breathes into my soul, and I plunge in to the DEPTHS of His loving heart where my prayers and good works can be magnified and my love and acceptance of self can move ever closer into the final stage of St. Bernard's Four Degrees of love; love of self for God's sake.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Get Out of the Boat

On Pentecost Sunday at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Roses for Our Lady held their monthly Holy Hour for Vocations. This particular Holy Hour was unlike any of the others, for we joyously celebrated and honored out spiritual director, Fr. Donald Hying, the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, who was recently made auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee. In my spoken tribute to him, I shared this quote from one of his scripture reflections that he writes for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald; this one was from Pentecost 2009. This quote is an Imprisoned in my Bones repost from May 2009-the very early days of this blog-but definitely worthy of repeating, and definitely prophetic for Fr. Don who is now truly stepping into the deep and giving his life over to the Holy Spirit in a new and wondrous way.

"When we, like the saints, set the sail of our life to the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves doing things that we could never have imagined, witnessing to Christ in ways that seemed beyond our abilities and engaged in works of evangelization, charity and service that seemed impossible. One thing is certain. When we give our lives over to the Holy Spirit, nothing will ever be safe or dull again. We will find ourselves blown out to the deep water and then Christ will bid us to get out of the boat." Bishop-elect Donald J. Hying

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Isn't Abortion Child Abuse?

Last week Matthew Archbold wrote a post at the National Catholic Register titled: Obama: Kill Babies or I'll Hurt the Poor. In his post, he rightly asks us to watch, pray and write to our legislators over the recent work on the part of the Indiana legislation which passed a bill to defund planned parenthood. The following passage made my stomach turn with the awful truth of his words:

"The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to Indiana threatening to withhold billions in federal Medicaid funding for low-income people if the state doesn’t agree to fund Planned Parenthood. Just think about that for a second. Let the horror sink in. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for it to really wash over you.

Got it? Yeah, the Obama administration is saying the federal government will hurt the poor unless Indiana agrees to fund the killing of babies.

Is Planned Parenthood entitled to taxpayer money? Think about it, the federal government if forcing a state to send taxpayer money to a private entity.

So when someone says to you that the Democrat Party is for helping the poor, make sure you correct them by explaining to them that the Democrat Party is about funding abortion first, even at the expense of the poor."

As someone whose profession it is to help the poor and vulnerable, to not only assist them in coping with the daily challenges of raising healthy children, but also to refer them to other private and government agencies and medical care from which they might benefit, I find the fact that the very money that could be used to help improve their lives would be withheld in favor of abortion to be unconscionable!

In my work at the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Clinic I was recently reviewing the revised policies for Nutritionists. When I came across the following state policy about reporting child abuse I did a double take:

Inflicting serious physical harm on an unborn child, including the risk of serious physical harm caused by the habitual use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree. ( Wis. Stat. § 48.02(1)(am))

In other words, if I, as a nutritionist, suspect or am told by a mother-to-be that she uses drugs or drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, I am to report her to the authorities, which of course, makes complete sense. But, if that same woman would tell me that she aborted her baby so that she could continue a lifestyle rife with drugs and alcohol, there would be no reporting necessary; just a reminder and encouragement to live a healthy lifestyle with some resources to help her do so, a handful of WIC checks for healthy foods and be on your way. I know this question has been asked by many before, but how is abortion not considered to be the most severe form of child abuse? To me, and to many others, I know that the answer to that question is obvious, so why is it that our government doesn't agree and will even strong arm their way to keeping abortion legal with unfair legislation that hurts the poor instead of helping them?

Keeping the hope alive that someday all of the efforts by pro-life groups and agencies will overcome the death culture in American society takes great faith. But push on we must. I am quite grateful that at my own parish, a long overdue pro-life committee is being established and I am proud to be a part of it, bringing right to life issues to the forefront and encouraging others to assist in the battle to end abortion. Little by little, we will overcome the ugly forces of death that keep the killing of innocent lives an acceptable law in our land, and we will see the day when the cold-blooded murder of babies is once again illegal and, please God, non-existent.

Until that glorious day becomes reality, I am grateful to have found the following prayer on Kee's Little Hare blog and I've printed it and posted it at my desk at work and pray it daily. When I am dealing with clients who struggle in their motherhood and feel that ending the life of their child is the only way to cope with their problems, the words of this prayer give me comfort in knowing that we are all in God's hands and every whispered prayer on behalf of women in crisis can go a long way toward helping them to give their child the gift of life and to work to be the best mother they can possibly be.

Prayer to save a child from abortion

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I come to pray for every mother who is today considering the termination of the life of her unborn child. Grant her the courage and grace to persevere, so that the child already living, will be born safely. I pray also that those who support, encourage, promote or perform abortions may be granted a conversion of mind and heart. Finally, I pray for all those who have been hurt by the tragedy of abortion. Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses celebrated throughout the world today, in atonement for our sins, and for all the sins of abortion in the world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Seven Quick Takes-It's Summer!

I'm living easy these days, or at least,I'm trying to. The kids are home for summer break and so I thought a summer quick takes would be in order...

1. When the kids are home and Paul and I are at work, we do quite a bit of communicating through e-mail. It's a great way for me to silently keep tabs on the home life while not interfering with my work. I like to call it e-tattling since that's what the majority of the messages I receive contain. On the first day of summer break, it was my two youngest who were home while the three oldest were finishing up their final exams at school. I received an e-mail with a very interesting question: "Do eyebrows grow back?" Sometimes an e-mail reply won't suffice and a phone call is in order. Let's just say we are grateful that it is summer break and the eyebrowless child won't be fodder for classroom teasing!

2. I had forgotten how beautiful my son Joe's eyes were because for the past year he kept them hidden behind a mop of hair. He took it upon himself to hike on over to the $5.00 haircut shop (not Otto the Barber-but a deal just the same) after his final exam for the year and I didn't recognize him when he walked in the door. It was $5.00 very well spent and the sight of my handsome son with short hair is the best part of my summer so far!

3. So, between shaving eyebrows and fabulous haircuts, I got to wondering about the mystery of hair. Why is it that hair on our extremities quits growing after it reaches a certain length, but the hair on the top of our heads would continue indefinitely unless we lose it? Maybe that's a good summer research topic!

4. My family and I had been struggling with the decision of whether or not to pull our two youngest out of Catholic school next year in favor of tuition-free public schools. I had gone so far as to enroll them at our neighborhood public schools when I learned that the grade school only offers split classes. Being quite biased from my own negative childhood experiences in split classrooms, I decided to quit fighting my husband (who was against the idea of public schools to begin with; and what kind of Catholic mother am I anyway for even considering public schools?) and sacrifice the finances to keep the little ones in the Catholic school. This decision was met with great joy by Jack and Mary and was blessed with a little sign from God in the form of a small scholarship check that arrived in the mail on the very same day the decision was made. God does answer prayer!

5. It's a well known fact that all mothers earnestly pray for the well-being and success of their children and often ask others to pray for their children as well. Now, I've a spiritual son for whom I'd like to ask prayers. John Howard, the brainchild behind the (now-closed) worldwide website A Vocation to be a Priest has completed his high school exams and is off to the seminary to begin preparation for the priesthood. Please keep him and all seminarians and those discerning a call to the priesthood in your prayers!

6. And while you're praying for seminarians and those in discernment, perhaps you'd like to pray for an increase to vocations as well. If you happen to be in the Milwaukee area this weekend, it would be a thrill to meet you at the Holy Hour for Vocations at St. Francis de Sales Seminary (3257 S. Lake Dr.) at 2 PM on Sunday. These monthly holy hours are hosted by Roses for Our Lady and we will be honoring Bishop-elect Hying, our spiritual director, at the social that follows prayer. Stop in and offer a word of congratulations to Milwaukee's newest bishop!

7. I've been devoting all of my spiritual reading to the subject of the Sacred Heart of Jesus this June. I have currently plunged into The Letters of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. I think that the letters written by the saints reveal their true hearts and souls in a far deeper manner than the words written about them in biographies. I was particularly moved by this passage:

"Go on blindly, forget yourself, let Him act in you, for He loves you. If you try to do too much you will only prevent Him from furthering the work of your perfection."

So, dear friends, I plan to enjoy a summer that has a little less hair, a lot more prayer and the quiet peace that comes from letting the Sacred Heart of Jesus work within me. Perhaps, I will also enjoy soaking up a bit more sunshine, since the very kind Holly at A Lifesize Catholic has bestowed a "Sunshine Award" upon me and my blog and shared the following words:

"I’m drawn to Anne and her posts because she makes serious religion engaging. I fear that many are lost to religion because when you start getting past what I teach in 1st grade, it gets a little, uh … shall I say, challenging, demanding, and serious. Somehow, Anne is able to be in the realm of the latter, and still get to people like me—the academically-religiously-challenged—engaged. Her light is a bright beam in my world."

Thanks Holly! I'm feeling significantly warmer from the light in your words! Visit Jennifer for more Quick Takes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Take Courage

One of my favorite gospel passages is that of the interaction between Christ and the hemorrhagic woman who touched his cloak in a crowd. Sensing that some power had escaped from his body, he questions who it is that has touched him and bravely coming into his view, she admits her action. Seeing her great faith he speaks to her: "Daughter take courage; your faith has made you well." (Matthew 9:22)

Take courage
, he says. And this daughter wonders, how exactly does a person take courage? For me, a chronic worrier and perfectionist, one who lives with constant fear and anxiety, nothing sounds more appealing than hearing Christ speak to me and say, "Daughter, take courage." But that courage escapes me, and I am left to shake in my shoes and wonder exactly how it is that I am able to make it through the tasks of each day without crumbling into a million pieces.

The temperature spikes and tempers flare, bills pile up with no end in sight, worries about tomorrow fill my mind and there seems to be no escape, no recourse for my troubles. The consolations of God seem far distant, the comfort offered by friends can't seem to sustain me and although I kneel in prayer fingering the beads, words of prayer don't burst forth from my heart. It's hard to believe that God cares, that he knows the burdens I carry and wants to relieve me of my distress. Spiritual reading tells me how blessed I am to suffer, for in my suffering I assist Christ in His passion and relieve the torment he endures from the sins of many. But still...still...I need relief that doesn't come from reading about the saints. I recognize that I am far from the holiness to which I aspire; I am not yet a saint, and most likely will never become one.

Yet again, in recent days, He speaks those words in Holy Scripture:

"In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." John 16:33

So I kneel down in the pew each day, head bent low, offering Him my fear and weakness, my impatience and short temper and I open my hands to receive His Body and Blood. And it is here, here in the gift of Eucharist, that I receive the courage which carries me through into the unknown of each day. This is it, the answer to my questions, the solution to my worries, His gift to me...I give Him my all, my entire nothingness and in return He gives me His everything from which I draw just enough courage to carry me through until the next time my Lord and I meet in the most intimate connection ever known. I ingest His Body and He innervates my entire being with His courage-producing presence.

And he speaks to me, "Take courage, it is I. Don't be afraid." (Matthew 14:27)

So I go in peace to courageously enter into life in His service for just one more day, each and every day of my life.

The Third Testament-A Guest Post

John Eklund is a first-time author who has written a historical piece of Catholic fiction based on Church history since the time of Christ. According to his website, the book uses real-life locations and Church events fashioned into a fictional story, which especially intrigues me since one of the locations mentioned in the book is the beautiful Devil's Lake State Park which my family loves to visit for camping trips. The Third Testament is widely acclaimed in Catholic circles so when the author proposed the following guest post, I was eager to agree. Please be sure to visit The Third Testament Website for more information as well as for information on ordering the book.

Joining in Holly's Life Size Catholic Pay it Forward Blog MEME, I offer you a guest post by The Third Testament author, John Eklund:

Several years ago my wife Jennifer and I were planning a trip to Germany (a trip we never ended up taking but still hope to). I had recently bought the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz and was looking through the section on Bavaria. I came across the remarkable story of the village of Oberammergau. In the seventeenth century the people of Oberammergau were ravaged by the bubonic plague, the Black Death. Guided by faith, the villagers made a pact with God to perform a Passion Play every ten years for eternity in exchange for a reprieve from the Black Death. They performed the first play at Pentecost in the year 1634, and miraculously no further lives were lost. The passage in Schultz’s book made me say “Hey, that sounds like something that could be in the Bible.” Around that same time I was reading Dan Brown’s infamous novel The Da Vinci Code. In the novel Brown erroneously describes the council of Nicea as the place where the early Church leaders decided what events and writings should be included in the Bible. All of a sudden a light bulb went on in my head. I became deeply intrigued by the question- What modern day events and writings would be worthy of being deemed “biblical.” It was then that I decided to begin writing The Third Testament, a pro-Catholic novel about the history of God’s people dating from the time of the apostles until the present day. I spent the next six years researching and writing about the most fascinating topics in the history of the Church and the world, and I loved every minute of it.

For those interested, here is more information about my book:

Brief Description of The Third Testament:

Guided by a mysterious old friend, forlorn Catholic professor Fred Sankt unlocks the hidden truths of the past two thousand years, and struggles to achieve a heavenly reprieve from the deep and dark troubles that mercilessly haunt him.

Book website:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Forty Years of Love

The sky was as blue as can be without a single cloud, the air was warm and pleasant, filled with the fragrance of flowers; birds were singing, children were playing, and lawnmowers were buzzing. It was a perfect summer day, made even more perfect by the beautiful backyard celebration that occurred in the midst of the typical summer activities.

Diann and Gary, my sister and brother-in-law, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on June 5th, which also happened to have been my deceased parent's wedding anniversary. To celebrate this beautiful event, my niece Jenny, their daughter, invited our entire large family of nine siblings and all of the children and grandchildren to attend a Mass and party in her backyard. Everyone brought flowers and the scenic backyard surrounded by a picket fence under the shade of a large oak tree was simply idyllic. It was a joyous event that brought all of my siblings together for the first time in five years!

The Mass was celebrated by our beloved friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer. Fr. Jim spoke of the gift of marriage as an image of God's love for each of us. He said there are times when the love that spouses share for one another is physical, but more often, that love is something that is felt and known deep in the heart, so that no matter whether or not a husband and wife are physically present with each other or are far apart, the bond of love is never distant, it remains deep within, just as Jesus remains deep within our hearts and souls through the gift of Eucharist. After the Ascension of His physical body, Jesus disappeared into the heavens yet He remains forever united with us, each and every one of us, always present within.

Fr. Jim also brought a beautiful prayer for Diann and Gary to pray together and shared copies with everyone else present...

Prayer of Spouses for Each Other

Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another's weaknesses and grow from each other's strengths. Help us to forgive one another's failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self. May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. Amen.