Friday, September 30, 2011

Solo Dios

God alone suffices she said
and I do believe that's true
in spite of that I create false gods
of every variety and hue

The one and only God is often
pushed to a corner of my heart
while these idols of every sort
tear my faith apart

aren't they pretty and aren't they kind
don't they seem to draw me to You
don't they say lovely things to enchant me
while subtly blocking Your view

they must be terribly bored
with the value of greatness I've placed
upon them so undeservedly
while making my life a waste

maybe they pity this girl
who creates idols so easily
when the only One who matters
is treated so poorly by me

please God push all of these idols
off the pedestals that I've made
where they teeter so precariously
and let their memories ever fade

smash my desire for them into pieces
so never again will they be
in my simple imagination
the most important deity

let me bury them with my tears
made of longing and disgust
and place all my love in You
who is worthy of all my trust

God alone will suffice for me
let the false idols try as they might
my heart yearns to be true
to my heavenly Father of light

be sufficient for me Lord
be all I ever need
solo Dios basta
is my constant prayer and creed

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Last spring my husband and I had the opportunity to preview the movie Courageous which was made by a group that is working to to put out movies with a positive Christian message and hopefully impact the world of Hollywood, proving that with the success of this movie, Americans are hungry for good, decent stories with positive messages that are free of the excessive sex, violence and profanity with which we are normally deluded when going to see a movie.

When Paul and I arrived at the theater, we were given a "goody-bag" filled with promotional items and a tee-shirt. When the movie was over, another movie-goer commented that there was something very important that was missing from the "goody-bag'; a box of tissues. I was actually thinking the same thing, because from the very first powerfully opening scene I was emotionally caught up in the lives of the main characters-their hurts, sorrows and joys all felt like my own-and everyone in the theater was frequently moved to tears followed by bursts of laughter.

offered plenty of exciting action coupled with touching scenes of family life during some of the most difficult situations that life has to offer. The characters were "real"-I felt as if I could relate to them and their family situations. While watching a scene where one of the families was grieving together, I couldn't help but think that these are the real-life saints of today, people who step through their suffering to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. And looking over to my husband at the end of the film, I was struck by the realization that Paul is a living saint, an excellent father who already knows the importance of spending time with his children, of being a strong disciplinarian, and of encouraging our children to live their lives with the purpose of giving glory to God in all they do. And more than that, I also realized how blessed we are in the Catholic Church to have spiritual fathers, our priests, who spend their lives promoting the same values that were fostered in this film: love, integrity, spiritual friendships, and a strong faith in God.

Courageous is finally out in theaters starting today, September 30th and I encourage you to see it. Without a doubt it was the best and most powerful movie that I have ever seen and just watching the trailer, I found that I once again had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes recalling the story that calls all fathers to be Courageous in their vocation.

(a partial re-post from the archives)

Angel of Prayer

On this feast of the angels St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael -an angelic repost from the archives...

God has overcome me.

When my soul becomes so full
of the wonder of His presence
that I can no longer contain Him,
He overflows in the form of tears
spilling from my soul-windows during Holy Mass.
I bend to my knees in humble submission
to His glory.

I can feel His angels surround me,
and my guardian angel joins me in prayer.
She gently reaches into my heart
and takes my prayer into her hands.
She tenderly carries it to God,
and breathes my prayer into His heart.

Once the tears and the prayer
have been released from my heart and soul
to their proper Home, the heart of God,
peaceful exhaustion takes their place.

I simply rest in the Lord, my peace.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


On a monotonous morning at work with moms and babies and toddlers in and out of my office listening to my shpeel about iron rich foods, the importance of breastfeeding and how to deal with a picky eater, I was stopped short by a four-month-old baby with a smile from here to eternity. I was going on and on telling mom about how gastro-esophageal reflux is the diagnosis of the day and every baby has it; it's just a fancy word for spit-up and yes, it's messy, but her baby will outgrow it, and as long as he gains weight, he'll be just fine. This little guy was certainly gaining weight and appeared to be very healthy, but it was that smile and that laugh...THAT LAUGH...that really made my day.

Every time I opened my mouth to speak to mom, which was often, baby would laugh and smile. And I would stop talking to laugh and smile back at baby. And mom would smile and laugh along and then comment on how her son thought that I was talking to him instead of about him. And the three-year-old sister was busy playing with my pink barbie doll Volkswagen Beetle with the sunroof, trying to figure out how she could get inside of it instead of just simply push it around the floor. (Which, by the way, every toddler who comes into my office attempts to get into the car by sticking their foot into the sunroof and then into the side door. It really is quite amusing!)

Our entertaining visit was nearing an end and mom was getting up to leave when she mentioned that she needed to send for a copy of her daughter's birth certificate which she had misplaced and then casually let it drop that she couldn't get her family into a homeless shelter without it. For the first time I noticed the stressed look on her face. I asked her if she was staying with family and she vaguely answered "No. Just around." I invited her to sit down once again while I gave her all of the information that I had for emergency shelter, food, clothing and baby items, which always seems so inadequate when what I'd really like to do is stay with her and help her resolve all of her difficulties. I offered her my prayers and best wishes and she was on her way.

But her baby stayed on my mind. His exuberant smile and laughter must be such a blessing to his mother whether he spits up or not. I recalled the days when my children were babies and how the days at home could drag on forever-there was always a dirty floor that needed cleaning, a pail of diapers that needed washing, toys underfoot, temper tantrums raging (usually mine!), and loneliness for adult conversation. But when my babies would smile and laugh, it made all of the troubles so worth it! There's no denying that the mother in my office had some serious problems, but for a little while she was able to put those troubles aside and laugh with her baby. How blessed that mother is to have such a joyful little son and how blessed we all are by the precious gift of life that only God can create.

40 Days for Life begins today. Will you fast and pray to save the life of a precious little baby who can bring happiness and sunshine into this often lonely and difficult world?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Seeing the Light of Joy

"To be sure, those who believe in Jesus do not lead lives of perpetual sunshine, as though they could be spared suffering and hardship, but there is always a bright glimmer there, lighting up the path that leads to fullness of life. The eyes of those who believe in Christ see light even amid the darkest night and they already see the dawning of a new day." ~Pope Benedict XVI
(h/t to St. Francis de Sales seminarian Patrick Burns)

For four years I've been in and out of a depressive state and have put up what I thought was a valiant fight against it. I've followed all the standard advice in an attempt to reclaim my joy once and for all-I've taken antidepressants and on more than one occasion have thrown the bottle of pills across the room in disgust at their uselessness and side effects that continue to leave me trembling almost a full year since I've discontinued their use. I've exercised, sought out counseling, read a ton of books on how to be a joyful person, and, of course, prayed.

The depression and anxiety remain which has finally brought me to the belief that I should stop the valiant fight and accept my state of mind as God's will for me. This is who I am and God wants to somehow use my sorrow and stress for His glory in a way that I cannot understand in this lifetime.

At the same time, I know that the best way to draw others to God, or to anything for that matter, is through joy. After all, a sour face isn't very attractive and if the world around me knows that I am a believer but my sad facial expressions and teary eyes are all they see when they look at me, they will question my faith and not be drawn to follow suit. Why would anyone want to be a Catholic if those who claim the faith seem to be so miserable?

I recently received the book Between Heaven and Mirth, by Fr. James Martin, as a gift from the publisher in exchange for my review (which is coming up in October). In reading the book, Fr. Martin mentions again and again how unbecoming it is for Christians to be forever serious and he urges the readers to lighten up.

Of course, while I agree with his reasoning, reading books like his and listening to those who try to be helpful with simple expressions like "Just be happy" and "Smile, nothing could be that bad" only serve to make me feel guilty because I so badly want to be a happy and joyful person, but it just doesn't seem to be in my nature and a permanent joy is forever elusive to me. I used to think that if I couldn't stay true to my lenten sacrifices then it was a sign that I didn't have a sincere love of God. Not being able to reflect the joy of Christ through my sorrow leaves me feeling the same way. I wonder what might be wrong with me that I just can't "get my act together" and be happy. There are days where it is just impossible to shine the light of Christ through a joyful attitude when all I feel is emotional pain.

I often find myself looking for ways to numb all that hurts within me through overwork, overeating, overdrinking, etc. in an effort to put an end to it, to feel nothing. Recently the question was put to me, "If you don't feel the pain, you won't feel the joy and happiness either. Wouldn't you miss that?" And my response to that would be that there is no joy that isn't tinged with sorrow.

The Flip Side

Looking at that rationale, I have to admit that there also is no sorrow that isn't tinged with joy. In all of life, in every event and situation, joy and sorrow go hand in hand, they are intertwined and inseparable. Like my dad used to say "You have to take the bad with the good."

I came across this excellent post by Heather King which explains that theory very clearly:

"...That, to me, is the heart of Christ, and to also call it joy might sound strange. But joy, unlike pleasure, always seems to have suffering--and a cognizance that other people suffer--in the middle of it. You don't diminish or minimize the significance and extent of your suffering. You don't say it's okay to hurt me. You don't voluntarily put yourself in a position to be hurt. But if being hurt is inevitable (and as human beings, we are always being hurt one way or another) you are somehow able to keep a tolerant uncritical awareness of the other--whether the
other is the world, an institution or organization, a family member, or a stranger. You are able to see the other as something other than the enemy. You are able to keep the other's humanity in mind because you know that is the way to safeguard your own humanity. That a child would be capable of such a feat when all it takes for me to forget people's humanity is a red light or two humbles me to the ground.

Maybe the childlike heart, as is so often the case, is the key. Because the child, though he or she suffers, has usually not yet made his or her organizing principle fear. Fear leaches us of joy. Fear makes us humorless and one-dimensional. Fear makes a keloid scar over our heart and makes us forget how much we long for human communion. Fear makes us forget to pay attention to the beauty with which we're surrounded because it's sucked all our attention to itself."

~Heather King, Shirt of Flame
(read it all-it's excellent)

So, I will continue to work at lifting the foggy veil that surrounds my life by fighting fear, not sorrow. I will learn to accept both sorrow and joy and when sadness drags me down, I will courageously search for the joy within it and cling to that as a gift from God who loves me and wants me to serve Him in all things. I will learn to smile through my tears. Like St. Paul's thorn, God is not going to take my depression away and I must learn to offer it to him as a sacrifice of love trusting that He will use it for His ultimate glory in a way that only He can understand.

"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-11

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Simple Life

My beautiful friend Danette and I took a Saturday morning sunrise stroll along Lake Michigan for sea glass searching, coffee sipping, and sharing stories of our hearts when she observed-"Your life is so simple."

Nodding in agreement to that fact and thinking that she was referring to what appears to be a low-stress life on the outside, I began reciting the litany of my many known and normal blessings-a beautiful and good family, physical health, a meaningful job that I enjoy when she interrupted,"That's not what I mean. Your life is simple because it isn't filled with secular interests, nothing seems to concern you that isn't of God."

I wish it were that easy and I find it interesting that she sees me that way when in my mind the things of God are rarely simple; I frequently agonize over how difficult it is to achieve holiness and I often struggle because I can't feel the constant presence of God. If it's true that my life is simple, then I would categorize it as an intensely simple life-for everything that is of God doesn't just gently dwell within my soul, but rather, it rages inside ravaging my spirit with deep emotion.

On Sunday afternoon my daughter and I went shopping for new dress pants and shoes. I thought, here's a nice, normal secular activity and quite an enjoyable time with my daughter, too. But, difficult! Why is it that very few stores carry respectable dress pants for ten-year-old girls? Everything was tight, ripped or shiny like a rock star would wear. Finally, after visiting four stores, we found some decent pants with a matching shirt and sweater that we both could agree upon. While checking out, the clerk asked if the outfit was meant for a special occasion. I answered that it was for wearing to church on Sundays, which, as a matter of fact, is always a special occasion.

As we were driving home, Mary asked if she could take off her moccasins and put on her new black shoes right away. I told her that she should save them for church only. She complained that she didn't want to wait a whole week to wear her new shoes to which I replied that we could go to church right now if she wanted to and we both laughed, but wouldn't that have been a touching way to show our gratitude to God for the gift of our afternoon together? My daughter is a gem, but I see that our secular shopping trip was indeed tinged with talk of God and giving Him glory with proper dress when we visit Him in His house.

So, maybe Danette was right after all-I do have a simple life with the presence of God affecting every little detail, but it's me who often denies that simplicity by pushing so hard for more than what I have been given and for dwelling too long on the challenges instead of showing thankfulness for the joys.

Joining Ann at A Holy Experience and giving thanks to God for these simple blessings:

~early fall colors
~picking the last of the grapes for the season
~concord grape pie
~inviting a lonely friend from church to share dinner and a Packer football game with us
~the Heimlich maneuver!
~the laughter of my daughter
~the prayer of absolution and forgiveness of my sins
~Eucharistic Adoration and the beautiful gift of His Body and Blood
~learning about the value of redemptive suffering
~rain to nourish the earth
~husband's arms gently holding me in the night when tears fall
~receiving a long-awaited letter in the mail with an opportunity to serve the Lord ever more deeply
~George Winston's Autumn CD
~serving on the Respect Life Committee and working to save lives
~a treasured friendship and a Saturday morning walk

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Top for the Child Jesus

In the early morning hours when sleep is elusive and prayer is dry, I take great comfort in reading the words of wisdom that I find here in the world of Catholic blogs. I am always amazed at the vast wealth of holiness that is revealed through the words of so many faithful people and one look at my blogroll will reveal many (though not all) of the blogs that uplift my soul day after day.

One blog in particular, has been wielding an influence on my faith quite distinctly these days. Patricia at I Want to See God has a deep devotion to St. Therese and her posts are filled with words of wisdom and love from this very special saint. It was through the inspiration of Patricia that I was led to check out a stack of books written by or about St. Therese from the Salzmann Library at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, and although those books are long past overdue, I just can't seem to part with them and am finding little gems in each of the books that move my heart towards a deeper love of God.

I am particularly fond of reading books that are compilations of letters written by the saints. In personal letters, I feel that the real day to day lives and emotions of the saints are reflected most clearly, so I am especially enjoying The Collected Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux and have been deeply moved by the letters that she wrote in the last year of her life while she was in intense pain. Although her faith was mature beyond her years, St. Therese had a child-like love for the Lord and would often refer to herself as a toy for the Child Jesus.

The following letter of St. Therese was written to Sister Marie of the Trinity, and in the whole book of letters, I found this one to be the most charming and the most meaningful. Sister Marie liked to play a game called "Skittles" and had recently taught the novices how to play with a top. That night, St. Therese left the top and the following letter in Sister Marie's cell:

"My dearest little Bride, Oh! how pleased I am with you...All through the year you have entertained me vastly with your skittles. I enjoyed it so much that the angelic court was surprised and delighted, more than one of the smaller Cherubim asked me why I had not made him a child...more than one went on to ask me if I didn't like the melody of his harp better than your joyous laugh when you knocked down a skittle with the ball you called love? I answered my little Cherubim that they must not worry about not being children, because one day they would be able to play with you in the fields of heaven, and I told them that certainly your smile was lovelier to me than their melodies, because you could not play and smile except by suffering, by forgetting yourself.

Beloved little Bride, I have a request to make, you will not refuse me?...Oh, no! you love me too well. So-I confess I should like a change of game; skittles are great fun, but now I want to play at tops, and you shall be my top. I give you one for a model, it isn't beautiful, anyone who didn't know what to do with it would kick it out of his way, but a child would leap for joy to see it; he would say: "Ah! isn't it fun, it can keep on going all day and never stop."

I, the Child Jesus, love you, though you have no charm, and I beg you to keep on going to entertain me...But to keep the top going, it must be whipped...So, let the sisters do you this favor, and be grateful to those who are the most assiduous in keeping you from slowing down. When I have had enough pleasure from you, I shall bring you up there, and we can play with no suffering.
Your little Brother Jesus.

May we all become a "top" for Jesus. May we endure and keep going without slowing down; to allow ourselves to be whipped by suffering knowing that it pleases the Child Jesus, with the understanding that one day we will be with him in a place of eternal play without suffering.

You may also enjoy these words of wisdom written by another child, my son, John, at his blog, Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Campfire Conversations

Moses and George Bush were riding on an elevator. George Bush recognized Moses and said "Hello." Moses ignored him. George Bush tried again but still, Moses offered no response. Finally, George Bush reprimanded Moses and said, "Don't you know it's rude not to speak to someone who is talking to you?" Moses replied, "The last time I talked to a Bush I spent 40 years in the desert!!!" (A campfire joke shared by my son John.)

On our camping vacation with our long-time friends from church, all of us friends since our teenagers were babies, we have a tradition of starting two adjacent bonfires at night-one for the adults and another for the kids, otherwise our group is too large for anyone to cozy up close enough to the warm fire.

The conversation at the adult campfire quickly turned to St. Matthias Parish, of which we have all been members for 15-20 years. The talk concerned the recent trend of emptier pews and the many reasons why we felt that families would choose to leave a parish to which they had long been members. One thought was that it is a parent's duty to make sure that their children were happy at church and the parents better do whatever it takes to insure that the little ones don't give up the faith, even if that means changing parishes. And Steve and Kathy, who have long been pillars of the parish, deeply involved in every ministry, and most currently passionately building up the youth of the parish by running the youth ministry which is affectionately called FEET (Faith Empowering and Engaging Teens), were just wanting ideas to keep those same teens who might be bored at church actively involved with their faith at the parish in which they were raised. There certainly are no easy answers and everyone is going to do what they feel is best for their family-either leave or dig in and plant the roots of faith even deeper.

So this girl who likes to send her roots down deep and stay put, changed the topic to share her love for her family minivan. Our minivan is over ten years old; it's rusty and noisy and has safely carried our family over 120,000 miles. Paul would like to trade it in for a newer and less maintenance-costly model, but I love my van-it's my daily traveling companion and I just can't bear to part with it. Sometimes it makes some strange noises, but I just turn the radio a little louder and carry on. I feel the same way about my house and my husband. I know that my van, my house and my husband, beloved though they all are, are none of them perfect. But I love them all just the same and couldn't imagine my life without them

And that's exactly how I feel about my parish. Sure, we've got troubles and problems, but if I bail, which I've often been tempted to do over the years, then I haven't done one single thing to help solve the problems, I've only selfishly run away to look for something new which I will soon find has problems of it's own.

A few years ago, when my depression was at it's most severe, God called me to begin attending daily Mass. I didn't want to go. I cried all the way to church, cried all during Mass, and then cried all the way home again. I begged God to just let me roll over and sleep for another thirty minutes. Why did He always have to drag me to church every day when I was just tired and wanted to sleep, I wondered? But somehow God's drawing me to Mass was powerful and potent and I could not resist, so there I was every day at 7 AM Mass, tears and all. Over time, I stopped complaining and dried my tears long enough to notice how beautiful that daily Mass was and before long I couldn't imagine staying away. I began to thank God for daily Mass instead of complaining about how unhappy I was to attend.

I think there's a lesson in that experience for the youth of our parish. They might not want to attend Confirmation classes, they might complain about having to dress nicely for church, they might prefer to sleep in on a Sunday morning, and they might even say that Mass is boring. But if we, as parents, continue to compel them to come through obedience, sooner or later they will stop complaining and they will find the beauty in the routine of worship and they will feel the love God has for them and will respond in wanting to give all of their love right back to the Lord. If we teach them to run away every time things become the least bit unpleasant at church or in life, then we haven't done our job in firmly teaching them the faith or given them the life skill of endurance through good times and bad.

And Steve looked over at the youthful campfire and said, "Now that's spiritual-twelve teens getting along, sharing stories with one another, even though they rarely see each other. There's a fine example of living joyfully and glorifying the Lord."

And why does that spiritual connection happen? Because even if the parents complain about the difficulties of camping such as rain, cold weather, and hard rocks to sleep on, they persevere in bringing their children on a family camping trip year after year and the children learn that there are joys and sorrows intertwined in all things, that life is a combination of ease and difficulties, and that by lovingly continuing the traditions of our faith and our lives we allow God to shine through and bring beauty and faith to all situations.

And so we stay at our parish, we continue on in our Catholic faith, we hold on to our friendships. We embrace a radical fidelity to the lives to which God has called us and in the end, He will reward our faithfulness with his abiding and eternal love.

The Lord Has Done Marvels For Us

"The Lord has done marvels for us." Psalm 126

The Bender family has long been early risers, so on the first day of our camping vacation, while our friends were sleeping in, we all got up for an early morning walk along the lake. As we were returning, I noticed a man sitting on a picnic bench with a big camera aimed our way. I suspiciously told Justin and Mary, my walking companions, "That guy over there is taking a picture of us."

And suddenly, I recognized the photographer as our friend, Steve!

And Steve also candidly captured Paul and Joe. I never cease to be amazed at Joe's height, how at the tender age of fifteen, he towers over the rest of the family.

And John with Jack trailing behind.

And here we all are rocking out in the sunshine!

And last but certainly not least, Steve snapped this lovely photo of the beauty that surrounded us at Devil's Lake. The Lord has done marvels for us, indeed! He has given us the love of a family striving for holiness and happiness, the glories of nature, and time for rest and relaxation away from the daily grind so that we can catch our breath and appreciate His many gifts-and it is all LOVE!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Family Camping Blessings

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17
(View from the East Bluff at Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin about 5 PM-taken by my son John with his cell phone)

So often in life God sends us blessings, but we don't recognize them as such while they are occurring, it's only in retrospect that we realize the wonders that God has offered to us. Such is usually my experience regarding camping vacations, but fortunately, God opened my eyes early enough on my most recent camping trip so that I was able to recognize His blessings and enjoy them while they were happening.

Every September my family takes an annual camping trip to Devil's Lake State Park with some of our friends from church. As luck would have it, the weather turns cold and rainy and the ground is hard and rocky and I end up complaining that I will never camp again and wonder aloud why we don't just go hiking somewhere lovely during the day and then go home to our cozy beds at night. But my children enjoy camping, so every year I agree to the outing but am sure to include plenty of grumbling so that everyone knows how reluctant I am to camp. I do enjoy playing the role of suffering victim no matter how minor the suffering may be.

As a control-freak, I have a hard time taking even the shortest of weekend vacations fearing that the world will come to an end if I miss anything important while I am away. This year especially, I was reluctant to go camping because my friend, Fr. Christopher Klusman, suffered the loss of his father, and I had wanted to attend the funeral to offer him my comfort, (truthfully, it probably would have been me who would have received the most comfort from being there)but the funeral date conflicted with our camping schedule. Also, our parish held their annual picnic on the Sunday afternoon when we would be returning and I really had wanted to attend the picnic and celebrate with my family of faith instead of spending an afternoon unpacking and washing twenty loads of laundry. But the camping trip is our only annual family vacation so I sacrificed the other events and camping we went.

Our local Catholic Herald had a recent issue with a map of Shrines found in Wisconsin. One of the Shrines was very close to our campground and even though we have camped at that same park many times, I didn't know that the Shrine at Durward's Glen existed, so I was eager to pay a visit. As we drove our car off the little bit of Americana that is the Merrimac Ferry (Hwy. 113 ends at the Wisconsin River and the Merrimac Ferry carries the cars across to resume travel on the other side of the river where Hwy. 113 continues)we spotted a sign pointing to Durward's Glen so we made a quick side-trip before setting up camp, and as we were the only visitors to the Glen at that time, we enjoyed a peaceful and prayerful afternoon.

We found Durward's Glen to be a pristine area with a Mary, Mother of God Grotto, an outdoor chapel and a Stations of the Cross that led to a quaint cemetery and another chapel. Included in the Glen were several hiking trails throughout the wooded area. How lovely to begin our vacation in prayer in this natural setting! As we were hiking through the woods a big yellow dog came running down a hill towards us, giving us all a fright! My daughter Mary started running with the dog hot on her heels. At first we thought it was a wild coyote but she was soon joined by a little beagle and we saw that both of the dogs had collars so we assumed that they were local farm animals on a little natural escapade. The dogs quickly became attached to our family and stayed by our side on the entire walk. Joe decided to name them after my deceased parents so they were quickly dubbed "Grandpa and Grandma Reindl." It was hard to leave my parent's namesakes behind when it was time to go to the campground and the kids begged to keep them. Especially sad was the sight of the yellow dog as she chased our van down the highway while we drove away, trusting that the dogs would find their way back to their home and their rightful owners. (pictured: the hermitage at Durward's Glen-click here to visit Durward's Glen website)

Once we set up camp, it was a normal vacation-we enjoyed the company of our wonderful friends, the beauty of hiking around the ever-gorgeous Devil's Lake, the late night visits around the campfire, the expected frigid sleeping weather and the Sunday morning pack-up in the rain after an early morning Mass at the beautiful St. Joseph's Church in Baraboo. While we hate to attend Mass in our smoky-smelling camp clothes and could choose to attend Mass on Sunday evening when we're back home and cleaned up, we thoroughly enjoy worshiping God in such a lovely location and we feel that it adds holiness to our camping experience to make time for Sunday worship while we camp instead of putting prayer off until we're safely home.
And when we arrived home and had unpacked, my son Justin said, "Mom, I know that you don't like camping anymore and would rather not go, but thank you for taking us, because I had a really great time." How could I not agree to go again next year knowing that it means so much to my family? And, how greatly blessed I am to have teenagers who enjoy spending time with their parents!

Once the unpacking and clean-up was accomplished, we still had time to attend our parish picnic in the rain and arrived just in time to see Fr. Paul take his turn in the dunk-tank! There he was in his tee-shirt with the picture of Jesus on the front, sure that no one would dare to send Jesus under water, but he was wrong. Again and again, the children in line hit the target and that good sport Fr. Paul went down into the water surely accepting his frequent dunks as a sacrifice for the Lord! And, as a bonus to those parish staff members who sat in the tank after him, they now fell into "Holy Water" that had been blessed by the presence of the associate pastor!

We were also blessed to meet some friends who had been able to attend the funeral for Fr. Christopher's father who assured us that the funeral was well attended with over 21 priests including Fr. Christopher's graduating class and two bishops, so, of course, my friend was well comforted and my worries were for naught. But of course, I know that my prayers for him were well received even from the distance of my camping vacation.

This year's camping weekend will go down as one of the most memorable and prayerful that I have known. I will eagerly await next fall's camping trip knowing that my family and I will enjoy some time away in the beauty of nature with the company of good friends-all blessings from a good and generous God who loves us well and will care for all of those I love while allowing me a much-needed family vacation! God's blessings never end, and in our sorrow or our joy, in our work or in our rest, God is always there, loving us all so very well. I ask that you please keep Fr. Christopher Klusman and the soul of his father, Elmer, in your prayers: Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May Elmer's soul, and all of the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Magic in Rome

Like many of you, I lead a very ordinary life. I work an ordinary job, fight the ordinary traffic, and come home to an ordinary family. This morning I awoke in my ordinary way, poured myself an ordinary cup of coffee, kissed my ordinary husband good-bye as he left for work, threw an ordinary load of laundry in the washer and greeted my ordinary children as they arrived downstairs for their ordinary breakfast. I went to Mass, (which of course, is never ordinary and therefore is always a highlight of my day) and afterward my ordinary son asked me to please bring his ordinary gym clothes to school because he forgot them at home. So, I skipped my ordinary workout at the YMCA and returned to my ordinary home for the gym clothes. While there, I had a few minutes to check my email and facebook messages and I found a message which was far from ordinary, and suddenly, upon reading it and feeling the joy and love it contained, to know that there is so much beauty in the Catholic Church, made everything feel different, beautiful, holy-quite extraordinary.

You see, my dear friend, Bishop Hying, has been living in Rome for the past two weeks attending what he calls "Bishop School" with his fellow newly ordained bishops from around the world. Although he is an experienced world traveler and has been to Rome many times, this experience is so different and new because he has never been to Rome as a bishop before. He has been generously posting notes to his facebook page about his Roman experiences so that his 400+ facebook friends may vicariously travel along with him. He has shared stories about the people he has met, the discussions he has encountered, including whether or not bishops should be on facebook (to which I give a resounding "yes!" and they should write blogs, too!) and about the weather and the beautiful Roman moon.

Bishop Hying would probably say that his life is usually very ordinary as well, but the words that he posted today were about an experience that is far beyond extraordinary, in fact, he called this day "Magic." His words made me feel as if I had been sitting right by his side in the Castel Gandolfo Courtyard. Reading about the bishop's day has lit a magic fire within my own heart and I am so grateful that he has agreed to my request to re-post his words here on this ordinary blog so that you, dear reader, may feel the magic as well! Our lives may seem to be very ordinary, it's true, but when God grants us the opportunities to become keenly aware of His goodness through the blessings of a loving family, beautiful friends and the gift of faith found in the Catholic Church, ordinary is really quite outstanding, and through the sharing of our life experiences we all join into an extraordinary community united in His tender care for all of us as siblings in faith, the children of God.

"Today, all 110 bishops got on two buses, drove out to Castel Gondolfo, the pope's summer residence, for an audience with the Holy Father. I sat in expectation, listening to the babble of German, Spanish, Italian, French,Portuguese, Arabic and English around me, as I conversed with Auxiliary Bishop Arthur Kennedy of Boston, who was part of the Apostolic Visitation of St. Francis Seminary back in 2005. We got to the beautiful little town in the hills outside of Rome and entered the papal residence. There we all were, in our bishop's cassocks, sitting on chairs in the heat of the inner courtyard, watching the Swiss Guard as they silently stood at their posts by the big wooden doors. I felt like a child at Disneyland for the first time! Suddenly, the pope came down the stairs and we found ourselves on our feet applauding loudly. He gave us a talk in Italian about the role of a bishop in the Church today (I didn't grasp most of it--I guess I need to study Italian!) and then we each went up to meet him, for all of 10 seconds. What an honor and blessing to kiss his ring, say hello and assure him that the great Catholics of Milwaukee love him and are praying for him daily. How human and holy he is, our Holy Father! He was genuinely happy to be with us! Coming back, we had a great lunch and the seminarians at the place we are staying put on a live concert. Amazingly beautiful!! I will never forget this day. All of you were with me in spirit and I offered my Mass today for your intentions! My heart is overflowing. Love and prayers to all!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


"Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ,
our salvation and our hope.
Let us bow in homage to the Lord of Life,
who was broken to make us whole.
There is no greater love, as blessed as this:
to lay down one's life for a friend.
Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ
and the triumph of God's great love."

~Dan Schutte

Our parish has a nice tradition on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Our All-School Mass is held on this day and each class sends one student representative to the altar with the classroom crucifix for a blessing. Yesterday at daily Mass, Fr. Dave made sure to let all of the daily Mass attendees know that they were welcome to bring a crucifix from home to have it blessed as well.

So there I was, feeling a bit insecure and uncomfortable after communion as I was the only school parent standing at the altar with all of the students and two elderly women. I held our family heirloom crucifix that had belonged to my parents, as well as a crucifix that belonged to an elderly parishioner who was too frail to walk to the altar. Fr. Dave pronounced the blessing and sprinkled the holy water and I decided that my insecurity was silly and I should never be ashamed to "lift high the cross" especially within the church!

When I picked up my children from school at the end of the day, my son Jack told me that while I was standing at the altar, his friend (the same one who slept over at our house and whom I took to confession and wrote about in this post) nudged him and said, "Jack, there's your mom. She's cool!" Cool! How about that? A thirteen-year-old thinks I'm cool because I took him to confession and stood in front of the church to have my family crucifix blessed.

So, I will ever glory in the cross of Christ and the triumph of His great love!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Motherhouse

My friend, Sister Doris, who plays piano and leads us in musical worship at daily Mass, is a School Sister of St. Francis. Like all of the School Sisters, she is rightly quite proud of the Motherhouse and St. Joseph's Chapel at 1501 S. Layton Blvd. in Milwaukee, WI, which retains all of its majestic beauty without any modern renovations. Sister Doris was quite excited to come across this historical brochure from the 1930's and was eager to share it with me. She told me to keep it and to share it with all of my friends and family. I don't think she realized that I would share her brochure with ALL of my family and friends throughout the world who visit this blog. Enjoy a little taste of the past:

Sister Doris was sure to point out the balcony filled with novices.

The adoration chapel is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL place in which I have ever had the honor to adore our Lord in the Eucharist.

The caption reads: Profession Day, the all-the-way day, when vows fasten us to Christ and to Him in endless others.

His Eminence Cardinal Samuel Stritch visiting the children at the convent.

St. Joseph's Chapel today-simply stunning and well worth a prayerful visit! To learn more about the convent and find the Mass schedules visit here.

The Sunshine of My Life

When my children were babies I used to sing Stevie Wonder's You Are the Sunshine of My Life to them as I'd nurse them to sleep, and it was only Jack who would lift his pudgy little hand up in the air in a gesture of "stop" letting me know that my lullaby skills left much to be desired and he preferred to nurse in peace. But this guy in the picture, well singing to him always did the trick and John would easily doze off into a lengthy slumber. It's hard to believe that my first baby will be graduating from high school this year, having grown into quite the fine young man.

On my desk at work, like all proud mothers, I have a collection of photos of all those that I love. My photo gallery includes pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of the Gate of the Dawn, some spiritual heroes like Pope Benedict, Archbishop Dolan, and Bishop Hying, my godson Matthew in his Marine uniform, some framed artwork created by my children, and many group shots of my husband, children and I enjoying the good life.

All day long mothers and their children parade in and out of my office and they rarely notice or mention the pictures. But now that I've added John's senior photo to the collection the lack of attention to my pictures has changed. For some reason, when the toddlers get bored with my box of toys, they have all been gravitating to this picture of John. I don't know if it's the colors that stand out or his winning smile that gets their attention. But maybe it's not either of those things, maybe it's the rays of sunshine that emanate from his bright nature that stands out to the little ones. Anyway, I don't think I do enough bragging about my kids on this blog, so here and now that stands corrected.

Enjoy a little Stevie singing the sunshine like it was meant to be sung-who would ever tell him to stop?

Crushed Grapes

Tomorrow I will be climbing to the top of the grapevine arbor in our backyard to gather the Concord grapes for harvest before the raccoons get them all! I offer this re-post from the 2009 archives...

We have a very large grape vine arbor in our back yard and this is the season of harvest. I spend hours upon hours picking those grapes and cooking them down into juice which will later be made into sweet jelly. Last year as I was enmeshed in this activity, I heard from a dear friend who was enduring much pain in her marriage. I told her what I had been busy doing, and she said "Anne, that's me! I feel like crushed grapes." So for all of you who are feeling like crushed grapes (and don't we all from time to time?) this one's for you...


I believe that you are the vine and I am the branches. You are sturdy, strong and life-giving. Your love flows into my branches and the fruit that I produce is fragrant and so sweet because of You. My deep, rich color is so attractive. I soak up the sunshine and revel in the beautiful, glorious life that You have blessed me with. I want my life to continue like this forever.

When You send your gardener to me, I am filled with joy. I think of how blessed I am to feel his gentle hands pluck my fruit from the branches and gently lay me in his basket.

But then, the gentleness turns to violence. His hands quickly pluck each of my grapes from the stem and toss them into a large kettle. Out comes the mallet and all I feel is pain as I am crushed to nothingness. I am little more than a jumbled heap of juice, seeds, skin and pulp. My beauty disappeared so quickly! I feel sticky and useless. What is your purpose, Lord? Why don’t You make him stop?

I’m not left to wonder in my misery for long, because an even more painful experience awaits me. I soon feel a fire burning beneath me and it quickly consumes me! I boil and froth. Can’t you hear me screaming in pain, Lord? Why is this happening? It’s so hot and I am in agony! I am stirred in fire so that not a single part of me gets left out of this pain. And then, slowly, I feel the fire beneath me diminish. But my pain does not diminish. It remains.

Now, I am poured out of the kettle and into the net. All of my sweet juice is drained out into the container below. Part of me has been separated from my original form. I am unrecognizable.

My pulp and my seeds which remain in the net are squeezed dry until they are useless, and they are tossed into the compost pile where the worms will turn them into dirt. Is that all I am to you, Lord, worthless dirt?

I hear You call to me to settle down. You say “Look what you will become. I have a higher purpose for you, but you could not attain it without first being separated from your original state, crushed into nothingness and purified in the fire. I am so sorry that you had to experience this pain. Believe me, I was crying and screaming and writhing right along with you."

"But now, you will become something greater. The sweetness that is found in your juice has been concentrated so that it has become even sweeter. Sugar will be added to your juice to intensify your delectable flavor. You will have to be put on the fire again to purify you even more, but I know that you will be able to tolerate it, because I am with you in the fire and I love you so much. When the heat becomes so strong that it is absolutely unbearable, you will be poured into a jar to contain you. You will be set on the windowsill in the path of the sunlight."

"You will shine and glisten and sparkle. Your deep, rich, purple color will become a clear jewel for all to see and enjoy; only now, you won’t be hidden under the leaves of the grape vine. You will be out in the open for everyone to see your glorious beauty. You will shine for me and I will shine in you."

"Children will see you and they will know immediately that you are something that they will enjoy immensely. They will be drawn to your rich color and your intense sweetness."

"You will be joyful because, by allowing yourself to be plucked, crushed and burned, you will have brought so much joy and love to the world around you. Through your new beauty, sweetness, clarity and brilliance you will draw more and more people directly to me. You are my instrument. This is your purpose. Don’t be afraid. I am with you every step of the way and I love you.”

Thank you God, for believing in me, for staying with me and for loving me. I am nothing without you, but, I am everything with you. Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011


"It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument." 1 Timothy 2:8

This morning at Mass I stood at the ambo proclaiming the first reading from 1 Timothy 2:1-8, and I was distracted and dismayed by the fact that someone had rebelliously taken a pencil and crossed out some of the words in the very last line of the scripture and wrote politically correct terminology above them. Had I followed the suggested change, I would have read "all" instead of "the men." I stuck to the original text, a bit disturbed that the lectionary of holy words had been tampered with. Maybe to some, I would have been seen as the rebellious one for following the words as they originally appeared.

It got me thinking, though, about the nature of rebellion and how we all go through it at one point or another, don't we? At some point, we believe that we are indisputably right and justified in our behavior, in turning our backs against tradition and the status quo, against rules and regulations, in favor of going our own way, however misguided that way may be.

I was recently approached by a young man who called me by name and began to visit with me. I had no idea who he was. Too embarrassed to admit the fact that I didn't know him, I tried to tease his identity out of him with various statements and questions such as:

"Wow! You look great! I wouldn't have recognized you!"
"Where are you going to school now?"
"Do you play football? Basketball?"

No luck. I still couldn't place him. To my great fortune he asked me about one of my sons. Finally, a clue!!! And then I remembered seeing his mother a bit earlier and realized that his was her son and I was able to converse easily with him.

Later that night at the dinner table, I shared this story with my family and mentioned what a fine young man this boy appeared to be. My sons just shook their heads in dismay at my words and they conveyed to me that this "fine young man" was well known these days for his use of drugs.

It's so sad to me that more and more often our dinner table discussions revolve around my son's former grade school friends who have succumbed to a life of partying which includes drugs, alcohol and sex, and stories of violent fighting in the high school where rarely a day goes by that they don't witness someone throwing punches and profanities as if it were candy being tossed from a float in a parade.

All of this rebellion causes so much pain and although I don't have any answers, I know that there is much good hidden beneath the struggling facade of teenage life, and I clearly believe that the young man with whom I recently spoke is a good boy and God will bring him around to sanctity once he gets past the rebellion. But I am also deeply struck by how blessed I am that the tragedies caused by teenage rebellion have escaped my family so far and I am determined to hold my children closely in gratitude for their goodness and pray that it will continue.

And for the rest of us, let's join the men of whom St. Paul speaks by lifting our hands in prayer until we can get past the anger and the arguments of rebellion and can finally live in peace with one another and with ourselves.

"Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you."
~Saint Jerome

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Quotes That Move My Soul

Here are some quotes that speak of beauty, of love and of prayer...that make me proud to be a Catholic!

"Yet how many pictures or frescos, fruits of the artist’s faith, in their form, in their colour, in their light, urge us to think of God and foster within us the desire to draw from the source of all beauty. What Marc Chagall, a great artist, wrote, remains profoundly true: that for centuries painters have dipped their paintbrush in that coloured alphabet which is the Bible. Thus how often artistic expression can bring us to remember God, to help us to pray or even to convert our heart! "

~Pope Benedict XVI on art and prayer from his August 31st, 2011 general audience at Castel Gandolfo

"And just as God foreknew and predestined Mary’s birth, God foreknew and predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son so that Jesus might be the firstborn of many brothers. Saint Jose Maria Escriva said this about the struggle with fear and anxiety that all of us sooner or later face: “Have you forgotten that God is your father? Or [that God is] powerful, infinitely wise, full of mercy? [God] would never send you anything evil. The thing that is worrying you is good for you even though those earthbound eyes of yours may not be able to see it now.”


"So, what we embark on today is a marriage, where someone who loves you, the Holy Father, is also someone who loves me. And the Holy Father knows in his wisdom that we will make a good family together. So we should see each other as gifts. I receive you as a gift from the Holy Father; and this requires that you receive me and my service as a gift from him, too. This requires that we make a commitment, an act of the will, to deepen our hearts, to love one another, to be patient with one another and, ultimately, to lay down our lives for one another."

~Archbishop Charles Chaput from hisSeptember 8th, 2011 installation homily as Archbishop of Philadelphia

"But you know when you step back and see how my friend Mychal died, I’m sure that when we finish grieving, when all this is over and we can put things in perspective, look how that man died. He was right where the action was, where he always wanted to be. He was praying, because in the ritual for anointing, we’re always saying, Jesus come, Jesus forgive, Jesus save. He was talking to God, and he was helping someone. Can you honestly think of a better way to die? I think it was beautiful.

The firemen took his body and because they respected and loved him so much, they didn’t want to leave it in the street. So, they quickly carried it into a church and not just left it in the vestibule, they went up the center aisle. They put the body in front of the altar. They covered it with a sheet. And on the sheet, they placed his stole and his fire badge. And then they knelt down and they thanked God. And then they rushed back to continue their work."

~Fr. Michael Duffy, OFM from the homily for Fr. Mychal Judge, the first casualty of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center

Under the Same Moon

luminous rays cast their glow
in the shadowy dark of the night
the same moon looks down upon all
keeping our world ever bright

though we are half a planet apart
the same moon that shone upon you
now sets my own world alight
beneath it's brilliant hue

and I see God's love in the moon
as a symbol of the One and Only
who sees us and loves us all
no matter where we may be

for the moon that sees both you and I
sees all of our siblings in Christ
and warms us with it's lustrous beams
to melt our cold hearts of ice

no distance is too far or wide
to keep His tender love at bay
like the moon that shines bright in the night
He lights our life and shows us the way

set my heart aglow like the moon, Lord
in the warmth of Your love may it always stay
casting out darkness and fear
in exchange for the brightness of day

I thank You, dear Lord, for the moon
and the planets and stars in the sky
those far off reminders of You
who loves all those both far and nearby

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Celebrating Her Birth

"Rejoice O Virgin Mary;rejoice a thousand times!" St. Louis de Montfort

Each year on September 8th Roses for Our Lady honors the Birth of the Blessed Mother with a Mass and outdoor Eucharistic Rosary procession by candlelight. It is my deepest prayer that all of those who participate in this event will be drawn ever more deeply into love with the Blessed Mother and her son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps she didn’t realize it at the time, but when St. Anne conceived her daughter, Mary, she was given a tremendous honor, for who else could be considered worthy to bear the immaculately conceived Mother of God within her own womb and to lovingly raise her, the woman who would become Mother of us all. The spirit of Mary’s birth is lovingly recounted in the poem First in Our Lady’s Service by Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, SP in which he honors St. Anne as the one “who gave unto our Lady what only mothers can.” Mary’s life was brought forth from the womb of St. Anne with one purpose, to bear the Son of God and raise Him in His human form as He prepared to reveal His divinity to the world.

Each year on September 8th, we rejoice with St. Anne as the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But the Blessed Mother’s Birthday is not celebrated with cake and candles alone, like any other birthday. We honor her instead with the greatest gift a child can offer to their Mother, the gift of prayer.

Roses for Our Lady
has a tradition of honoring Mary by loving her Son. On the occasion of her birth we celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass with our hearts completely lifted to heaven in joyous praise. Then we light candles, not those on a birthday cake meant to be blown out with good wishes, but blessed candles, meant to be carried in our hands as witness to the Light of the World. We carry those lights out into the city streets as we clasp the Blessed Mother by the hand through our beaded rosaries. She holds us close to her heart as we repeat the Aves while contemplating the life of her Son.

As we carry our love for the Blessed Mother and her Beloved Son out into the world, our procession becomes a path for the very Son of God, the Bread of Life, to be lifted up in splendor in the Holy Eucharist encased in a monstrance of gold, and devoutly carried in the arms of the priest wrapped in humeral veil.

We join St. Anne in offering our own humble gifts to the Blessed Mother. To quote Fr. Fitzgerald’s poem once again:

There is no saint in heaven,
nor angel who dwells there,
but holds a precious privilege,
a privilege most rare,
to do the very littlest thing
for Mary, Queen most fair.

These things we do to honor our Blessed Mother on the anniversary of her birth may seem so little and small, but we can be sure that they bring great joy to her heart, for the holy Mother of God is most honored when we praise and worship her Beloved Son.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I give my life over to God until I'm blurred in the works and jumbled in the words and worn down from the doing. I wonder, does God answer prayer? Do my words set down through my fingers into a keyboard really matter? What is the meaning behind all of this, anyway?

And I get answers streaming across the miles-sweet and thoughtful answers through the web of the world from as far away as England and from as close as six blocks away in the beauty of my friend Danette standing on my doorstep with a gift in hand-a gift of words-We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned in order to live the life that is waiting for us. (ER Forester) I share a moment with my friend, Fr. Jim, who reminds me that taking a step back in prayer can be more powerful than all of the works we do. Those works might be good and holy but they might also keep us from God if they overtake our prayer time. And those answers from friends near and far enter into my heart and I feel loved and needed and encouraged and strengthened. And I know that God does answer prayer, that my words do matter and that my life does have meaning.

I had asked God to erase me and He shows me how he has already done that-through your words. You write-"I understand how you feel, I feel that way, too, sometimes, but please don't stop writing your experience of God, even when that experience brings you pain, even when you can't feel Him, even in your dark-please write."

I arise each morning offering my day to God, giving him my works, thoughts and prayers for His glory. And I remember that each time I set out to write it is a prayer and God does always answer prayers, including my most recent prayer.

I am erased. It's not about me-it's about you.

It's about you and your love for God, your need for God. We all feel it. I am not just a series of written words on a computer screen. I am a funnel and God pours His love through me into you. And are a chalice, golden and beautiful, meant to contain Him, to hold Him and to carry Him into the world for all to see and know and love.

Thank you for letting me funnel Him into you and thank you for allowing Him to be chaliced within you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Erase Me, Lord

I've been toying with the thought of deleting this blog, completely wiping it out into oblivion. Oldest son discouraged that idea, said Imprisoned in my Bones is who I am, and I would lose myself without these words on the internet, these two and a half years of words that speak a lifetime of pain, joy, faith and love. Maybe that's the right idea, to lose live for Him alone.

All of the poems, prayers and stories have exposed me-but have they really given the glory to the only One deserving of exposure? I read the words of famous bloggers who are hailed as heroes of faith for their uplifting words, but what happens at night when the house is quiet and all of the internet chatter is silenced? What happens when they lay in bed staring at the ceiling in the dark? Is He there holding them, loving them? Can they feel Him? Or are they waiting for the happily ever after that is supposed to come for those who believe-but living like Cinderella in the ashes, waiting for Prince Charming to make himself known?

I want to be erased of all that I am, Lord, and to be rewritten for You alone. I want to feel You now, know You right here. Sweep away the ashes and erase me, Lord, so that You alone are known.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Contemplate a Crucifix

"If you ever feel anxious or afraid or if you ever wonder does God really love me, does God really care, do I matter, contemplate a crucifix. In the crucifix we see Jesus with his head bent to kiss us, his arms opened to embrace us and his feet nailed fast to pardon our sins. We can never pass a cross or a crucifix with indifference because there we see God's compassion, God's heart, God's love put on full display for us."

~Bishop Donald Hying, from the July 3rd homily at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

All Shall Be Well

"All shall be well, and all shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well."
~Blessed Julian of Norwich

As I send the kids back to school after a long summer, I see that they are not the only ones who have lessons to learn. The kids got into plenty of mischief during the dog days of the season but so did I. Like a spoiled child I spent the summer fighting with God and His will for me. I know that all I ever have to do is "let go and let God," to trust in His love and His wisdom, but I found that I was often unable or unwilling to do that and the result of my tight clinging only brought me unnecessary pain. A friend of mine used to say that the longest journey is the one we take from our head to our heart, meaning that our mind might be telling us the right path to follow, but getting our heart to follow suit is another matter entirely, in other words, it's not easy to do that which we know is right. In the past few weeks I have shared several examples of the lessons God has patiently been sending me to help me learn to let go of my deathly grip on my own will and to teach me to relax in His love with the ultimate result of a joy-filled life. Recently He gave me another such lesson.

"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us." ~Joseph Campbell

In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee the Legion of Mary holds All-Night Eucharistic Vigils on the first Friday of every month and I had planned to attend the most recent vigil. I was looking forward to hearing my dear friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki from the Apostleship of Prayer give a talk on humility. But as life sometimes happens, it turned out to be one of those days where my tight clinging to my own will left me unable to get my act together and get out the door so I missed the Mass and talks. I was disappointed, but I found that it was really a blessing in disguise that I didn't go after all.

"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." ~St. Margaret Mary

My son invited a friend to sleep over at our house that night and his family is new to Catholicism, having just entered the Church last Easter. In the morning I decided that I needed to make a trip to church for Mass and confession that I missed the night before and I brought my daughter Mary, my son Jack and his friend with me. Not only did St. John the Evangelist Parish offer Mass and confession, but the congregation also prayed the Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions and the Rosary during Eucharistic Adoration after Mass. We got the whole shebang! Jack's friend mentioned that this had only been his second time to confession since he entered the Church. It was such a blessing to have the opportunity to bring a sheep ever more closely into the fold through the Sacraments of the Church and had I gone to Mass and confession the night before, I probably wouldn't have gone in the morning. And what's more, Fr. Jim very kindly posted his wonderful homily about humility on his blog, Offer it Up, so I didn't miss so much after all!

Things didn't turn out quite the way I had planned, but God's plan was better than anything I could have worked out on my own, and that seems to be my number one lesson these days. I'm not sure how many more lessons God needs to send my way before I finally "get it" but I'm so grateful that He never gives up and that His lessons are always sweetly gentle on this weak and fragile girl.

"Letting go doesn't mean we don't care. Letting go doesn't mean we shut down. Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave. It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment. It means we stop trying to do the impossible--controlling that which we cannot--and instead, focus on what is possible--which usually means taking care of ourselves. And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible." ~Melody Beattie

We Are Catholic

Have you seen this yet? I found it on the Deacon's Bench-love it!!!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Lady of Shallot

"There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott."

My all-time favorite book and movie is Anne of Green Gables. I love the personality of the main character, Anne,who is always so dramatic and very much inspired by poetry, especially that which makes people cry. I feel that I not only share her name but many traits of her personality as well. The movie begins with Anne wandering through the woods lost in the beauty of nature as she reads Tennyson's The Lady of Shallot. But she is quickly brought back to the reality of life by the shrieking screams of the woman who had taken her in as a boarder and nanny to her children.

Later in the movie Anne and her friends decide to re-enact the Lady of Shallot as a play with Anne as the lead character floating down the river in a boat as she recites Tennyson's famous poem. Her plan is thwarted as the boat springs a leak and she must cling to the post of a bridge until help arrives in the form of her friend, Gilbert. Her friends are greatly distressed as they fear that Anne really did drown in the river.

The Band Perry has put out a video to their song, If I Die Young, that sweetly recalls that romantic scene from Anne of Green Gables. My daughter Mary and I recently spent a peaceful afternoon searching the lakeshore for sea glass and Mary was singing this song, one of her favorites. It put a smile on my face and now I just have to share this endearing video, I'm sure my kindred spirits will enjoy it!

"Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott...

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

Put a Lid On It

"When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom- 'Let it be.'"
~Paul McCartney

It's nearly that time of year again-the grapes are hanging heavy and plump on our abundant vines, ready for picking, and I will soon be busy harvesting and cooking them into juice for jelly. I've been making about 20 dozen jars of grape jelly every year for the past 20 years since we've been in this house and I always have lots to share with family and friends. My last few batches of jelly didn't turn out very well, they never set quite right and I was embarrassed to share it with others lest my reputation as an expert jelly maker become tarnished, and so I became discouraged and put jelly making onto the bottom of my to-do list. But I need freezer space so it's time to get cooking again to make room for all of the new batches of juice that is on the way.

I bought a case of sure-jel, which makes the jelly set, on discount, and blamed it as a bad batch resulting in my lack of success with my most recent attempts at jelly making. But today I found out the real reason that my jelly hadn't been setting. We had recently purchased a new stove and the burners automatically re-adjust the heat, so instead of a full boil in about ten minutes, I would stand at the stove stirring the jelly for an hour and still couldn't get it to boil enough to bring about a good set. It wasn't the sure-gel after all, it was the lack of consistent heat that caused my jelly to fail.

So I tried something new. Instead of standing and constantly stirring the juice as I have done for the past 20 years, I put a lid on it as it cooked and turned my back to the stove while I occupied myself washing the dishes. Before long I had a full rolling boil and a perfect batch of jelly.

I realized that I often make the same mistake in my spiritual and emotional life that I had been making with the jelly. I stand and keep watch, stirring and fretting over details, working myself into a panicked frenzy until I crash into depression over my inability to get things to work out right, meaning, the way I would like them to be instead of the way that God would like them to be. What I really need to do is put a lid on my worries, turn my back and walk away for a while. I need to let things simmer and cook under God's every watchful eye, not mine. God in His wisdom will see to it through His perfect will that everything will turn out just right. I will always be deeply loved by Him and I will grow into the spiritual and emotional maturity that I long for without my having to interfere. He will always have plenty of His perfect love to share just as I will always have plenty of perfect jelly to share. All I have to do is put a lid on it!