Monday, October 31, 2011

Chick Flick

My youngest two children had a day off from school for a teacher in-service and Jack was invited to spend the day at a Halloween Party with a classmate. That left me in a predicament for what to do with my daughter as she is too young to stay home alone and Paul and I were both scheduled to work. I had asked my boss if I could bring Mary to work with me but apparently there are liability issues involved with that, so she generously told me that I could take the day off to care for my daughter.

What a treat to have a Monday off to spend it with my daughter and what fun we had!

After morning Mass and some shopping for presents for my husband's upcoming birthday, Mary and I did something that we just never do-we the Mall. We haven't gone window shopping and browsing at the Mall in years-everything is so high priced that it seems like a waste of time to walk around looking at all of the things you don't want and can't afford. But today, Mary and I had the time of our lives!

After walking through several clothing and jewelery shops and leaving in astonishment over the tacky items that pass for fashion today, we stumbled into a Sephora Cosmetics store that offered samples of every type of make-up imaginable. Now if there is one thing Mary likes to do it's to experiment with make-up. She must have the most scrubbed-clean face of any ten-year-old girl for all of the times that Paul and I find her dipping into my make-up basket at home and send her to the sink to wash it off. But today, since it was a special girls day out, Mary and I enjoyed sampling every type of eye-liner, eye-shadow, blush and mascara that was on the shelf at the store. We sampled some blush that was clearly not in our color palette and nearly rolled on the floor laughing at how silly we looked. We doused ourselves with Justin Bieber perfume samples and then left the store smelling sweet and feeling even sweeter.

Then we headed over to the movie theater and caught a showing of The Mighty Macs. With a supply of Halloween candy loading down Mary's purse as a movie treat we were well prepared to sit through the movie. We easily found a seat as the theater was empty except for one man who had arrived before us. It almost felt like a private showing! The movie was excellent! It was both clean and wholesome with a great moral. It seems to be pretty rare to find a family-friendly story that includes a strong faith element, especially one that is clearly Catholic. The nuns in the story which was inspired by real-life events, were represented in an attractive fashion and all of the women characters were strong, resilient and faithful to their commitments and vocations. It was a joy to watch a group of women come together as a team and play basketball with the belief that no matter what they would be #1. What was really impressive was the fact that at the end of the movie, the credits showed the real-life pictures of the characters in the story and shared what they were doing today. They all appeared to be successful and satisfied. With Mary's first season as a basketball player rapidly approaching after years of sitting in the bleachers watching her brothers play, this movie was a perfect inspiration to get her fired up to play. Today's trip to the Mall for both the shopping and the movie was definitely mother/daughter bonding time well spent and Mary and I will treasure the memory of this day for years to come.

Two thumbs up (both Mary's and mine) for The Mighty Macs! And, although I titled this post "Chick Flick" I know that my husband and sons would enjoy it just as well as my daughter and I did. Click here to view the trailer.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Holy and Healing Water of Lourdes

"I want to be purified. I want to be cleansed. I go to the baths. There, two men instruct me to undress. They wrap a blue apron around my waist, ask me to concentrate on what intercessions I want to ask of Mary, then lead me into the bath and immerse me in the ice-cold water. When I stand again, they pray the Hail Mary with me and give me a cup of water from the spring to drink."

~Henri Nouwen, Jesus and Mary: Finding Our Sacred Center

I'd been spiritually sick and in need of healing for some time and was struggling to cope with the darkness in my soul. My friend, Bishop Hying went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes and while there he visited the baths of holy water. As he was immersed in the water he brought me with him in prayer. What spiritual power a few words of prayer carry with them! Upon his return he told me about his prayer for me at the baths of Lourdes.

I took a few days to ponder and consider his words, his story of prayer for me. I let the thought of it sink deep within me and returned to the visual image in my mind of Bishop Hying being helped down into the water and giving my name to God through the love of the Blessed Mother, and it felt as if I could actually feel the holy, healing water within my soul, as if I were really physically and spiritually there, and I am changed. The ever-present fear, anxiety, tears and depression that had become a part of me are gone. For the first time in years I feel a real joy and peace like I have never known. I don't know if I would have felt that change in me had he not told me what he had done; I am left to wonder if I would have felt the effects of his prayer without the knowledge of it. That will always remain a sacred mystery, I suppose. I also don't know if this peaceful feeling will last. But I do know that I am deeply grateful that God has chosen to use the Blessed Mother as a source of comfort and love in my life and in the lives of so many others who turn to her in faith. What a treasure we have in Blessed Mary and in the gift of healing waters and the intercessory prayer of our friends in the communion of saints!

Please enjoy Bishop Hying's story about his experience in Lourdes from the October 27th Milwaukee Catholic Herald:

Several weeks ago, I was blessed to be part of a spiritual pilgrimage to France with 32 other people. We visited many places associated with great saints, like St. Margaret Mary at Paray-le-Monial, St. John Vianney at Ars, SS. Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal at Annecy, St. Therese at Lisieux and St. Joan of Arc at Rouen.

We also went to Lourdes, the beautiful shrine of healing, nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains. Highlights there included celebrating a Mass in the grotto at 6 a.m. with a full moon shining, participating in the rosary candlelight procession, going into the baths and climbing up to the fortress which overlooks the town.

The most compelling and moving part of Lourdes is the vast number of people who are suffering a wide variety of illness, maladies and disabilities. They come to this remote French town in the tens of thousands, triumphing over obstacles and enduring discomforts just to get there. As pilgrims, they have come to pray and to bathe in the waters of the spring which the Virgin Mary had instructed St. Bernadette to discover in 1858.

Most will not find a physical healing, although thousands have over the years, but they will come away with a deeper experience of God’s love for them, a stronger resolve to bear the cross of their suffering, a deeper peace that comes from acceptance and surrender.

One of the things that strikes me about Lourdes is that the sick and disabled receive preferential treatment, in the baths, processions, Masses and walkways of the shrine. They are the most important people there. Such a practice is a startling inverse of how the “world” often is, where the powerful, beautiful and elite often receive the pride of place.

Lourdes is a profound incarnation of the Catholic conviction that Christ comes to us in the disguise of the poor, the sick and the weak and awaits our merciful response through them. An attendant at the baths drove this point home to me, as I awaited my turn to go in, saying, with tears in his eyes, that his work at Lourdes was a privilege, as it allowed him to bathe and care for the Body of Christ on a daily basis. This holy shrine is a divinely chosen site where the fullness of human weakness and suffering converge in a startling fashion with the fullness of God’s merciful and healing power.

It may be tempting at times to wish we lived in a world completely free of suffering, poverty, weakness and illness, yet would that be a good thing? Obviously, in the name of the merciful Christ, we seek to eradicate disease, malnutrition, unemployment and homelessness, but we can never fully escape the cross. As maddening as that may be on a human level, could it be that we all need some level of suffering to humanize us?

If I was completely self-sufficient, living with no neediness, weakness or dependency, I would be tempted to shut myself off from other people and maybe even God himself. Suffering in those we love opens up deep reservoirs of compassion in us, as our own inadequacies compel us to reach out to others. How often in our lives, has a harsh encounter with the cross led us to a deeper faith, prayer and awareness of our radical need for God?

Societies that do not tolerate human weakness and imperfection often end up eliminating those who do not measure up to some mythical standard of sufficiency. The Third Reich comes to mind. Our rich Catholic spirituality and theology of suffering can deeply inform and shape our national debate on end-of-life issues, euthanasia and health care. Pope John Paul’s letter on the meaning of human suffering, “Salvifici Doloris,” serves as a foundational document to deepen our understanding of how God and our human weakness intersect in Jesus Christ.

Lourdes reminds us that we do not have to be perfect, strong, healthy and beautiful to be loveable, that God actually finds our disabilities to be attractive, that he is drawn to our weakness, that our sin arouses his compassion.

Ted Turner famously said that Christianity is for losers. I could not agree more. Only those who know they need a Savior can find the crucified and risen One who can heal, forgive and love us into eternal life.

Friday, October 28, 2011


"O Lord, we beseech Thee to cleanse the intent of our hearts with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee. Amen." ~Introductory prayer of the ceremony of enrollment as a candidate for the Oblates of the Precious Blood

On the morning of my candidacy enrollment for the Oblates of the Precious Blood, I awoke with great joy in my heart and was determined to spiritually prepare myself for the sacred undertaking I was about to embark upon. With a heart warmed by kind messages from friends who encouraged me with their own offerings of prayer, my oldest son and I paid a visit to the local Schoenstatt Shrine to spend some time with the Lord. We were alone in the tiny chapel and together we prayed a rosary for priests in the presence of the tabernacle.

Later, when I arrived at work, the clinic was swamped with clients and I was left with no time to ponder the upcoming ceremony. On my lunch break I slipped away to the nearby Church of the Gesu for confession. An event like this requires a clean soul. As I stepped out of the confessional, I recognized one of the men standing in line as a Conventual Franciscan seminarian from St. Francis de Sales Seminary. I had never met him before so I introduced myself to him and told him that my family and I spend a great deal of time at the seminary and that I had recognized him as one of the seminarians. He introduced himself as Paul Schneider and told me that he anticipated being ordained to the transitional diaconate this coming April. Then he looked at me intently and said, "Pray for me." I confidently told him that I would, but on the inside, I was utterly amazed. This man had never met me before and had no idea that on this very day I would be committing myself to life-long prayer for all priests, seminarians and those discerning the priesthood. I felt as is if his words, "Pray for me" were spoken on behalf of all priests and seminarians and were inspired by Christ himself telling me that my calling to the Oblates of the Precious Blood was indeed a heavenly inspired vocation which was much needed today. I returned to work and all during the busy afternoon I kept recalling those three simple words-pray for me- as I anticipated what was to come.

That evening our living room was arranged into an informal church setting with flowers and candles and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Finally, the moment I had been waiting for since last June arrived. My friend Kurt Keidl, who had kindly written a letter of recommendation to the Handmaids of the Precious Blood on my behalf and Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, who also had taken the time to write a letter, both arrived and the Mass began. My family joined in the celebration as my son John read the first reading, my daughter Mary read the psalm and my son Jack served as acolyte. Fr. Jim, who had just returned that very afternoon from a two week visit in New Jersey where he led a retreat for a convent of cloistered Carmelite nuns, spoke about his gratitude to cloistered nuns such as the Handmaids of the Precious Blood who pray for priests, and also of his gratitude for lay people who pray for priests. He said that no priest can handle his responsibilities toward the Church alone, that they all need the gift of prayer from others.

Following Holy Communion, Fr. Jim officiated at the short enrollment ceremony which included a reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 1:3-10, a questioning of the candidate, a presentation of a medal of Mary, Queen of the Clergy, a prayer of the candidate and a final prayer and blessing.

The Mass and enrollment ceremony were followed by a dinner celebration with a special treat, Holy Spirits Wine, and all too soon the evening came to an end. In the morning, Fr. Jim would be off on another retreat trip for the Apostleship of Prayer, this time to Minnesota. How wonderful it was that he was able to spend his short time at home helping me to dedicate my life to prayer for all priests. It was a gloriously blessed evening and I am filled with joy to prayerfully begin my formation period and to devote my life to prayer for all priests.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gratitude For My Many Fathers

"Why should we not be holy, we who are inebriated with the Life Blood of God's Holy One?" ~Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP

It has been five years since my natural father died. My dad was a good and holy man and while he physically lived on earth, his influence upon me was quiet. I called him "Silent Man." He always rose early and silently began his days in prayer, and then he quietly returned to prayer throughout the day for all of his nine children. He wasn't a perfect man, to be sure, but he was a good man and it was from him that I learned to pray, to give my all to God.

Today I have many fathers. My life is touched by so many good and holy men, all of them priests of God. These men are like my natural father because they also rise early to silently embrace the beginning of the day in prayer and they quietly return to prayer throughout the day for all of their many children, unlimited in number. They might not be perfect men, to be sure, but they are good men and from them I continue to learn how to pray, to give my all to God.

How I love my fathers! I love them for their sacrifices, for their words of wisdom, for their prayerful example, and for their steady presence in my life. I love them because they care about my soul and they show their love for me by holding me in prayer. I love them because they give Christ to me in the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Precious Blood of the Lord. I love them because they are the Body and Precious Blood of the Lord. My many fathers give me all that I need in this life so as to lead me safely to my heavenly home with God, my true and eternal Father.

I long to return the favor. I want to sacrifice for them, to share some words of wisdom like they do, to set an example of prayer for others and to be a steady presence in the lives of my own children. And so I begin with prayer. Each day in the early morning hours I silently embrace the beginning of the day in prayer just like my many fathers. I collect myself before the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I offer Him my day for the sanctity and well-being of these men that I love, these men that have personally touched my life. My fathers need prayer and love! They need to know that they are loved. So I place their names within the greatest love of all-the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He loves them best for they are His sons. They are His other self. They give so much-they give their precious time spent without cost until they reach exhaustion, they give their love and they give their prayers. They work side by side with all of their children for the sole purpose of building up the Kingdom of God. I have only to look to my fathers and I see Him. So, with a grateful heart I pray for my fathers by name. I pray for...

...Pope Benedict, Archbishop Dolan, Archbishop Listecki, Bishop Hying, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, Fr. Carl Last, Fr. Dave Cooper, Fr. Dan Felton, Fr. Joe Lubrano, SDS, Fr. Dan Murphy, Fr. Dennis Witz, Fr. Paul Stanosz, Fr. Peter Berger, Fr. Phil Hurley, SJ, Fr. Jim Lobacz, Fr. John Endejan, Fr. Edward Radey, Fr. Matthew Widder , Fr. Luke Strand, Fr. Christopher Klusman, Fr. Kevin McManaman...and the list grows...each year at ordination I gain more fathers to love...there are so many on the way! I pray for the seminarians at St. Francis de Sales Seminary by name as well, and I pray for those in discernment, and for the mothers of my fathers-those lovely women who nurtured these men from conception... And I pray for my spiritual son, John Howard, who is studying to be a father in far away England....And I pray for all of the priests of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and encourage others to do so as well through the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests...and I pray for an increase in good and holy vocations to the priesthood with Roses for Our Lady at our monthly holy hour for vocations...but it is never enough. I want to give them so much more; I want to give them something radical and beautiful. I want to give them my entire life and all of my prayer.

And so on October 27th, in the intimacy of my home and in the presence of my husband and children, one of my many fathers, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ will offer Mass and will officiate at a ceremony in which I will be accepted as a candidate for the Oblates of the Precious Blood. This will be the beginning of a year-long period of formation before I make a Solemn Resolution of Love. As an Oblate of the Precious Blood I will be under the heavenly and spiritual guidance of another father, Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP, the founder of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, with whom I will be received into union and affiliation, and I hope to become "leaven in the world, suffering and offering all aspects of my life for the glory of God and the sanctification of priests." Please pray for me as I deepen my prayers of love for all priests, my many fathers, and join me in praying for all priests, everywhere.

Prayer of the Candidate

O God, I desire to make a perfect return of love to You by dedicating my life to the Precious Blood of Jesus and to the sanctification of Priests who offer the Precious Blood to You each day in countless Masses. Because the Eucharist is "the greatest Gift of the Sacred Heart," I wish for You, Jesus, to be the center of my spiritual life, my complete joy, a joy which no one can take from me. I pray, too, for the grace to render earnestly and well my preparation for making a Solemn Resolution of Love as an Oblate of the Precious Blood, if this be according to Your will. I ask these graces through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary; of St. Joseph, Patron of Your Church; of the holy Apostles who were the first Priests; and of my Guardian Angel. Amen.

O Mary, Protectress of the hierarchy of holy Church obtain for us holy priests who will glorify God and save souls. Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us. Amen.

(above quotes are by Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP and the Prayer of the Candidate is from the Ceremony of Enrollment as a Candidate for the Oblates of the Precious Blood)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Death Shall Be No More

"It is from the blood of Christ that all draw the strength to commit themselves to promoting life. It is precisely this blood that is the most powerful source of hope, indeed, it is the foundation of the absolute certitude that in God's plan life will be victorious. 'And death shall be no more', exclaims the powerful voice which comes from the throne of God in the Heavenly Jerusalem." ~Evangelium Vitae 1

The newly formed Respect Life Committee at St. Matthias Parish (of which my husband and oldest son and I are members) has been very busy during this month of October which is dedicated to Respect for Life in an effort to draw attention to and pray for the sanctity of life. We gathered with 35 members of our parish on October 2nd to prayerfully hold signs and witness to the sanctity of life along a busy highway as part of the Life Chain and then, later in the month, seven of us took a trip to the local abortion mill to pray on an unusually blustery and cold Saturday morning. The cold made our prayerful time there feel extra sacrificial. My daughter, ever so sweet, wrapped her arms around me in an effort to keep me from shivering and someone took our picture.

But for me, the highlight came this past Sunday when our committee sponsored a Holy Hour for Life at our parish. Including my family of seven, there were 25 people in attendance. Yes, some of my teens complained about going and I was ready to let them off the hook but my husband held fast and insisted that they participate. It was joyfully surprising to see how quickly their complaints turned to prayer as they actively participated in the Holy Hour. We listened to scripture and a reading of a portion of Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae. Fr. Paul spoke powerfully about how the lack of trust in God is the source of humanity's failure to respect life and he said that if we would only draw our strength from the Eucharist we would find the power to combat the evils of abortion, the death penalty, disrespect for the disabled and euthanasia.

After a period of silence, I was honored to lead the rosary. While preparing for the Holy Hour, I had looked online for some nice pro-life meditations for the Glorious Mysteries but was unable to find any that I liked, so I wrote my own. They are at the end of this post-feel free to copy and use them if they move your heart.

Our Holy Hour ended, like all Holy Hours do, with benediction. The monstrance that belongs to St. Matthias Parish is the most ornate monstrance that I have ever seen. It's such a pity that it's rarely used, in fact, in the 19 years that my husband and I have been parishioners there, this was only the third time that I've seen the monstrance. I think that if that gorgeous monstrance could think and feel emotions, it would be beside itself with joy to realize that it contains the Body of our Precious Lord. So too, should we all be, for although we may not all be as ornate as a monstrance of gold, we all contain the Body of Christ within us. We are all monstrances, including the sweet little babies growing within their mother's wombs, the criminals serving time in prison, the disabled who depend upon others for their daily care and the elderly living out their last days on earth. What precious life! How glorious to see Christ in others! How tragic that we can't realize and accept the glory of God that resides within all human life.

So, I pray that our Holy Hour for life was only the first of many occasions where we honor our Eucharistic Lord in adoration at my home parish and that more and more people will feel drawn to attend and honor Jesus in the Eucharist and beg Him to bring about an end to the inhumane destruction of human life that is so ingrained in society today until that final day when death shall be no more.


The Rosary for Life-Glorious Mysteries

The First Glorious Mystery-The Resurrection

Christ, having lain in the dark, cold tomb for three days, rose again to eternal life and with that rising gave us the hope that we too, will rise again in eternal joy and happiness with our Creator. But that hope of the resurrection only comes after a full life lived in his service. How can we attain that eternal reward if our lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ are prematurely diminished before our natural end, the end which God alone can determine?

The Second Glorious Mystery-The Ascension

Christ ascends to Glory. Our souls also long for glory. We know that in God’s plan our souls were meant to ascend, to rise, not to fall into the decay of sin. By protecting God’s precious gift of life from the first instant of conception until natural death, we hope to see all life ascend to our heavenly Father.

The Third Glorious Mystery-The Descent of the Holy Spirit

That breath of life that filled the twelve apostles with the love and wisdom of God fills each of us as well. Each human life has received the breath of the Holy Spirit making all life holy. Who are we to snuff that Spirit out through the sins of abortion, the death penalty, and euthanasia?

The Fourth Glorious Mystery-The Assumption

The Blessed Mother first carried our Savior within her womb and now, in this mystery, He carries her within His arms on that sacred trip to heaven. Mary fulfilled God’s desire on earth spoken so beautifully in her fiat-“Let it be done unto me according to Thy word.” Like His mother in the Assumption, He longs to carry us as well, to bring us to glory with all of the angels and saints and his beautiful mother after we have fulfilled God’s purpose for our lives here on earth. May all human life be blessed with the gift of respect as we strive to serve Him well as He desires.

The Fifth Glorious Mystery-The Coronation

Mary, our Mother, always humbly took her place in this world whether that place was in a stable, at the foot of the cross or now, as Queen of Heaven. We are also called to humbly take our place in His service, and whichever place we are called to be, however we are called to serve Him, it begins with the gift of life at conception and ends with our natural deaths.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

slipping into silence

silent tears
in the silent rain
silent sorrow
and silent pain

silent shame
from a silent past
silent suffering
now the silence is cast

silence remains
in a silent heart
can you feel the silence
rip your soul apart?

silent day
and silent night
silence continues
its silent plight

silence holds
and silence ties
looking down
with silent eyes

yet here in the silence
He speaks to me
my soul is listening
I can clearly see

the deep love He has
in His heart so dear
His silent presence
is love ever near

beautiful silence
I will embrace
this quiet time
this silent space

and into forever
silence will remain
a sign of His love
and His kingly reign

silently His heart
melts into mine
and our hearts become one
in a silent shrine

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dear Father

I recently had the opportunity to hear a priest give a talk called "The Priest-Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask." As one who loves priests you can imagine that I eagerly anticipated this talk. It was really more of a question and answer session than a talk, so his words were geared to the specific questions that were asked. While his talk gave me much to think about, I couldn't help but feel disappointed by what he said. What was I expecting, some great mysterious insight into the holiness of the priesthood, perhaps? What I found was some holiness, to be sure, but mostly I heard the words of a very ordinary man who loves his priesthood but also struggles with the stresses in life, both from the high expectations placed upon him by others as well as the high expectations that he places upon himself and his brother priests which seems to have ultimately resulted in his lowered expectations of everyone in the Church.

I asked him how the laity, the ordinary people in the pews, can help him and help all priests. I especially wanted to know what we can we do to help all men be successful in their priesthood and to remain faithful to their calling. He answered that there is nothing that we can do to prevent a man from leaving the priesthood if he is unhappy. He offered the usual things that strengthen a priest such as socialization and participation in church activities. He seemed to say that the largest burden on the happiness and success of the priesthood falls upon the places of formation, the seminaries, and I'm sad to say that his words about seminary life were not very pleasant. The negativity of his words weighed heavy on my heart and I realized that something important was missing in his response to my question. What was lacking in his answer was the one thing I feel most called to do and that is to pray, because although he was right in that there isn't anything that we can do, our God can do anything if only we would humbly ask Him in prayer. Not a moment of my day goes by without my whispering a prayer for one priest or another as well as for those discerning a call to the priesthood and for those studying in the seminaries.

I just finished reading a most fabulous book, Dear Father: A Message of Love to Priests, by Catherine de Hueck Doherty which I highly recommend. The book is fashioned in the style of personal letters and her beautiful words raised my spirits with hope and joy in a way that the talk I heard did not. Let me share some excerpts:

"We call you "Father" because you begot us in the mystery of a tremendous love affair between you and God. Because you participate in the one priesthood of Christ. You are wedded to the Church, his bride. Even should the law of celibacy be rescinded, you will still be wedded to the Church, and it still will have to take precedence over everything in your life.

We call you "Father" and we are your "family." We need you desperately. We need you where God has placed you, at the head of our family, just as he has placed human fathers in the midst of their families to nurture and love them."

"Christ loves his priests. It is incomprehensible to us how much he loves his priests. He loves them like brothers. But what is more, he loves them as himself. Because, you see, a priest is Christ, and the Father loves them because he loves the Son, and the Icon of the Son is in the heart of every priest. And so the Father bends over each heart with a love that surpasses all understanding, and the Holy Spirit sends his fire and flame constantly upon you. You have a Pentecost every day...

It's a stupendous thing, dear Father. I am just an ordinary lay person, but when you come into our house or I go into yours, I feel a sort of complete joy. It's as close as I come to the living Christ. You think I exaggerate? Oh no, not at all. You are the living Christ, in a manner of speaking. He ascended, but he loved us so much-us, his Mystical Body of which he is the head, us, his people of God-that he couldn't possibly leave us. So he left himself in you. Do you understand that, Father? Do you?

Yes, he left himself if you, in the Bread and Wine, in the Eucharist. He left himself in Icons and in the Saints and in a lot of ways, but above all, in the Eucharist and you."


And so for the priests who feel that there is nothing the laity can do for them, I ask you to please accept our prayers, for our words to God on your behalf are filled with our love, the love of your children. We need you to be successful and to be happy because we are a selfish lot and we know that our prayers for you will ultimately result in happiness and holiness for each one of us. Keep giving us God through your faithful and loving witness to his goodness and to his love. Keep pouring yourself out for our benefit. Keep being the living face of Christ.

I am now one week away from my enrollment ceremony after which I will begin my formation period as a candidate for the Oblates of the Precious Blood, and will commit my entire life to a deeper way of praying for priests in unity with the Handmaids of the Precious Blood. Please keep me in your prayers in this regard and consider joining me in praying for the sanctity of all priests everywhere. Our Fathers are depending upon us and upon our prayers!

Monday, October 17, 2011

What Do You Expect From a Homily?

In the past I have written on this blog about my young friend, John H., who is in his first year of Seminary in England. John has been offered the opportunity to help set up a National Center for Homiletics in the United Kingdom and is looking for YOUR thoughts.

John wonders:

"What do you require from a homily at Mass? Are your expectations always met? What support could we offer to priests? Are there any suggestions to improve the standard of preaching?" Regarding younger members of the faith, John would like to know: "Are they bored; does the homily relate to their current faith issues?"

So, dear reader, what information can you offer to John? Is there a memorable homily that you will always treasure? Have you been completely turned off by a particular style? What would you like to glean from the words of the priest as he breaks down the Gospel each week? All shared thoughts will be most appreciated! Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email which I will forward to him.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

St. Margaret Mary

"But, alas, what is there to the joys of this life? There is nothing solid in them and they pass away like a dream. I cannot understand how a heart that seeks God and wants to love Him can relish any pleasure outside of Him." ~St. Margaret Mary

My oldest son is now 18 years old. It's funny how those years raced by in a blur and I barely noticed what was going on-I just said my prayers and focused on the day to day details of raising a family. And then something changed. Just around five years ago, I started to notice the big picture more than just the day to day routine. Suddenly my time for God wasn't just limited to a few quick prayers in the early morning hours and a little bit of catechism sprinkled in for the good of my children, but now, He consumed my entire days; prayer became constant and my family's concerns seemed to take on a lesser importance than the time I devoted to God. I can no longer carry on a conversation without God being the focus of my words much to the chagrin of my sons who would rather have sports or school as the main topic of the family talk.

I often ask myself if my family now taking a back seat to God in my life? If I were to ask my children I'm sure they would say yes. My side of the dinner conversation is peppered with "I love Jesus" and "Let me tell you about the homily at daily Mass" and "Who wants to come with me to a Holy Hour?" and their side of the conversation is full of questions like "Mom, are you going to be a nun?" and "Why is it, Mom, that every time we talk to you, you respond with a homily?" and "Why must we have so many religious pictures in this house? I feel like I need to genuflect every time I walk into the living room!" and "Why should I go to a priest for confession when I could just tell you, that's almost the same thing, isn't it?" To which I respond with another homily and yet another trip to confession with a willful and defiant child in tow to beg penance for the sacrilege that resides in our household.

Just this past week my now 18-year-old and I were discussing his upcoming birthday when he casually mentioned that he has always enjoyed the fact that he was born on the feast of St. Margaret Mary, October 16th. It seemed as if bells began ringing in my nearly empty head. St. Margaret Mary is one of my favorite saints with her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I often find myself tightly clutching her relic when worries and frustrations conquer my spirit. How did I miss the fact that my oldest son was born on her feast day? At the time of his birth I hadn't been aware of her feast day but thought it was awfully cute that he was born on Sweetest Day and was most determined to name him after the Pope because didn't every good Catholic name their first born son "John Paul" back then? So I gave my son an impressive and saintly name and then promptly put God back on his shelf with an occasional nod to his presence in my life, until the day when He finally demanded that I take Him down, dust Him off and gave Him the proper place as the center of my life.

I just finished reading The Nun by Margaret Trouncer. It is a factual novel about St. Margaret Mary. In the book, St. Margaret Mary's spiritual director and friend, St. Claude de la Columbierre, is quoted as saying in a homily:

"The jealousy of your Bridegroom reaches out to all who may inspire any feeling of friendship and of tenderness...Is there a friendship more praiseworthy, more apparently holy than the friendship you might have for a director showing you the path to heaven? However, if you have too much of an attachment to that director, if you desire his conversation, however holy, with too much eagerness, if you are not ready to leave him at the first command-that would be enough to grieve this Chaste Bridegroom. And what is more, He will sometimes be jealous of the very persons he orders you to love."

Reading this made me wonder, if God could be jealous of a nun's relationship with her spiritual director, couldn't he also be jealous of a wife and mother's relationship with her family, the very people that he created specifically for her life? Could it be that He was so tired of sitting on my shelf watching me devote myself entirely to my family with very little thought for Him beyond the obligatory requirements of Sunday Mass and mealtime prayer? Could He have been smarting from our occasional family rosaries knowing that it wasn't enough to take a firm and steady root in the hearts of my husband and children? Was He demanding more of this on again/off again Catholic?

St. Margaret Mary often snuck away from her horrifically abusive home life during her early years to spend time in natural surroundings where she felt the love of Christ, and during her years in the convent at Paray where many of the nuns treated her cruelly, it was her escape to the chapel alone with Christ that brought her comfort despite the fact that she suffered for it by poor treatment from her fellow nuns. Yet, even with her frequent forays alone with Christ, she never neglected her duties to family and obedience to the rule of the Visitation Order.

I know that the loving teasing which I occasionally endure from my children for placing Christ in His rightful place in the center of my heart is nothing at all compared to the taunting of the nuns who persecuted St. Margaret Mary for her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and like St. Margaret Mary, I aim to never neglect the duties of my vocation as wife and mother. I hope to endure all suffering with the knowledge that the time I spend in prayer and the place of importance that Christ has in my life honors Him and keeps Him from jealously waiting for me to notice Him. My love and devotion to Him has the power to heal His broken Sacred Heart which continues to suffer from the lack of loving attention that is His rightful due from all of His children. I am His alone now and forever.

St. Margaret Mary Alocoque pray for us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you.


postscript to the above: Also found in The Nun about one of St. Margaret Mary's novices:

"She wrote the memoirs of her Mistress (the nuns ascribing the loss of all of her teeth to her excessive assiduity in writing."

I can only hope and pray that loss of teeth isn't a side-effect of excessive writing! It might be pride and vanity but I do hope to reach old age with all of my teeth intact! This quote made me think that Fr. James Martin, SJ would have had a good laugh over it and had he read it I'm sure he would have included it in his book Between Heaven and Mirth!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Speed Bumps and Other Helps

Yesterday I posted highlights from Fr. Wade Menezes talk on the Blessed Mother from the Gazing on the Face of Jesus with Mary conference sponsored by the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate. Today I am giving Dr. Edward Sri his due. His talk was so engaging and uplifting-really most enjoyable! If you are ever offered the opportunity to hear him speak, I recommend that you do!

His words:

Some people consider praying the rosary to be as easy as saying your ABC's but others say it is difficult to pray it without a wandering mind. Some look at the rosary as a difficult chore and pray it just to "get it over with and check it off the to-do list," and for others every decade seems to last ten years, or they are so busy all day that when they finally sit down to pray the rosary, they fall asleep. But we should never walk away from praying the rosary feeling discouraged or defeated. Simply pulling out the beads and praying is giving something beautiful to God. St. Thomas Aquinas said that just the intention to pray is in itself the beginning of prayer.

If we pray the rosary and go to Mass and it doesn't go well and we're distracted, God sees the intent of our heart and He loves us for it. We should remember that the only one who wants us to be discouraged is the devil. But we do want to get better at prayer. Sometimes it's helpful to focus on meditating upon the mystery of each decade and at other times we want to focus on the words of the Hail Mary prayers. In either case the Lord will take whatever we give Him.

People may criticize the rosary as vain repetition. Jesus himself repeated his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed "Father, not my will but your will" three times. Repetition is the language of love. Every couple repeats "I love you" and they don't sigh and say "Could you come up with something more original?"

When we pray the words of the Hail Mary we are joining in the joy of heaven with Gabriel and the joy of earth with Elizabeth who first uttered these words of prayer. Gabriel who knew God in heaven from all of eternity is in awe over the mystery of the incarnation. And how does Elizabeth know that Mary is pregnant? It's through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which gave her prophetic insight. So the first half of the Hail Mary prayer is all about praising God-praising Jesus. The second half of the prayer, the Holy Mary, is simply asking her to pray for us. But it's the center of the Hail Mary prayer, the hinge, where we find the Holy Name of Jesus. We should treat his name in this prayer like a speed bump, that is, slow down and speak his name with reverence and love.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Get Into Your Prayers

Last weekend I had the great honor of hearing Fr. Wade Menezes and Dr. Edward Sri speak about Marian Devotion and the rosary at the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate's Gazing on the Face of Jesus with Mary conference at St. Jerome's Parish in Oconomowoc, WI. What follows are some highlights from Fr. Wade's talk:

Each mystery of the rosary is re-lived at Mass, either directly or indirectly.

Mary is blessed not because she bore Christ within her womb and nursed him at her breast, but because she heard the word of God and kept it. We are to follow her example in this regard, to hear the word of God and keep it.

The Eucharist is the only Sacrament that is what it signifies; the other Sacraments effect what they signify such as baptism which washes away the stain of original sin, but the Eucharist truly is the Body and Blood of Christ.

All Marian devotion is Christocentric and points to Christ. Mary's name is never mentioned in scripture without an implicit reference to her Son. A perfect example of this is Mary's direction to the waiters at the wedding feast at Cana. She said, "Do whatever He tells you." She says the same words to us.

In the rosary Mary stands in the background of every mystery. Even the Assumption and Coronation are but glimmering foreshadows of what we hope to attain for ourselves based upon Christ on the cross who came to save us.

Using St. Thomas of Aquinas' definition of humility: "Humility is seeing your place and taking it." Mary shows her humility by taking her place in the stable, the home, the foot of the cross, and as the Queen of Heaven.

Just as Mary stood at the foot of the cross, she is standing today right next to you, ready to help and support you no matter what may be going on in your life.

The rosary is a contemplative prayer where we are conformed to Christ with Mary.

According to John Paul II the role of the Christian family in the modern world is the foundational and innate vocation of the human person to love.

The goal of Catholics is to stay right in line with the Chair of Peter and to swerve neither to the right nor the left as both camps cause confusion and the devil is loving every minute of it. It doesn't matter if you fall out of the Barque of Peter to the left or to the right-either way you risk drowning.

The spiritual life is not limited to liturgy. The liturgy is the source and summit, but Christians must also go to their room to pray in private and pray without ceasing.

Don't just get your prayers in-get into your prayers!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Between Heaven and Mirth-A Book Review

Fr. James Martin, SJ has this theory that a joyful nature will attract others to the Catholic faith. By taking a look at his Facebook page and seeing that he has over 7400 likes, I'd say he's got that theory nailed!

I've been a fan of Fr. Martin for quite a while, ever since I read his books This Our Exile and My Life With the Saints. Last year I had the opportunity to hear him speak at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Pallium Lecture Series and laughed out loud during his entire program. The man clearly has a great sense of humor and knows how to tell a joke.

I'd been in a particularly low and lousy mood not so long ago and it was during that dark time that I received an email from Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours asking me to review Fr. Martin's latest book Between Heaven and Mirth. I thought it was a providential sign from God that it was time to crack a smile once again. And crack a smile I did, and then some, upon reading Between Heaven and Mirth!

Still feeling a bit joyless when the book arrived in the mail, it took me a chapter or two to really get into it. I thought, "What's so funny about a book that reads like a textbook with footnotes and an index?" It seemed a bit complicated for my dull senses and to top it off, I sensitively took the the first few chapters personally as I felt quite well described by his negative words about religious people who are prudish, touchy, irritable and serious seeing as that was the particular state of mind I was in at the time I received the book. This just seemed to reinforce my bad mood and I thought that if I were to ever meet Fr. Martin in real life, he probably wouldn't approve of my petulant and negative nature.

But after I got past the first few chapters I began to lighten up and enjoy the book. Fr. Martin's joyful spirit was proving to be contagious! I particularly enjoyed his anecdotes about his own personal failings and how he found the humor in them as well as the occasions where he pointed to scripture passages that seemed to tickle his funny bone. My favorite was the example about Jonah trying to hide from God so as to avoid preaching to the people of Nineveh and God's great comeback: "And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city {as if I need to remind you}, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?" The humor in this passage is even more evident in the NAB version read at Mass just this past 5th of October which uses "cattle" instead of "animals" as if cattle are much more important than any other animal!

But by far my favorite chapter came towards the end of the book-I'm Not Funny and My Life Stinks-in which Fr. Martin acknowledges the fact that sometimes in life we do have just cause for sorrow and he offers concrete examples of how to survive that sorrow with a joyful spirit. His practical advice from St. Ignatius on the daily examination of conscience in which we are called to "savor" the events in our days for which we are grateful was, to me, the most helpful and uplifting advice this often malcontented Catholic has ever read. I particularly love the saintly quote in this chapter: "Do not become upset when difficulty comes your way. Laugh in its face and know that you are in the arms of God." ~St. Francis de Sales

If, like me, your personality tends to focus on the negative and you are easily brought low by the difficult events in life, you will find that Between Heaven and Mirth might be just the antidote to your depressive nature, and who knows, maybe even your "animals" will be rejuvenated by your more lively spirit! I rejoice in the gift of Fr. Martin and his lovely book Between Heaven and Mirth!

You can read further reviews at the following blogs:

Tuesday, October 4th:
Wednesday, October 5th: Scrutinies
Thursday, October 6th: Oh Mandie
Tuesday, October 11th: Imprisoned in My Bones
Monday, October 17th: The Curt Jester
Tuesday, October 18th: Elizabeth Esther
Wednesday, October 19th: The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, October 20th: Vox Nova
Monday, October 24th: Happy Catholic
Tuesday, October 25th: imperfect prose
Thursday, October 27th: Mom’s Mustard Seeds
Friday, October 28th: A Catholic Life
Monday, October 31st: Why I Am Catholic

Monday, October 10, 2011

Eucharistic Rosary Procession

On Sunday, October 9th, Roses for Our Lady honored the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary with a special outdoor Eucharistic Rosary Procession as part of our monthly Holy Hour for Vocations on the scenic grounds of the regal and historic St. Francis de Sales Seminary which is always held on the second Sunday of the month at 2 PM. God blessed us with a beautiful autumn day and even nature rejoiced with us-for a time we were joined by two lovely deer who were feasting on the seminary's front lawn! Deacon Yamid Blanco, who will be ordained to the priesthood this May, presided at our Holy Hour this month and he treated us to a Gospel proclamation in chant! Such a lovely way to honor the Blessed Mother! (If you look closely you may recognize some of the family members of yours truly in the photos!)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gazing on the Face of Jesus with Mary

There are many nights when I lay awake, mind swirling with worry and anxiety, and then there are nights when I lay awake heart overcome with the love and goodness of God. I love that latter kind of sleeplessness and gladly give up the slumber to relish the joy that flows throughout my heart and soul. Last night I had one of those sleepless nights of joy.

My good friends, Dick and Terry Boldin, are a divinely inspired couple who have given their lives completely over to the purpose of spreading devotion to the rosary. They began the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate in 2003 and have been actively sharing their love for Jesus and Mary with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee ever since. In honor of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary they held a conference, Gazing on the Face of Jesus with Mary, that included a Friday night rosary and Mass with Archbishop Listecki and an all day Saturday conference at the gorgeous St. Jerome's Parish in Oconomowoc, WI. I was so honored to be invited to lector at the Friday night Mass and to be given the opportunity to promote Roses for Our Lady (Roses) and the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests (MPRP)at the conference on Saturday.

The conference included the opportunity to hear renown speakers Fr. Wade Menezes and Dr. Edward Sri speak on the value and importance of the Blessed Virgin and specifically on the rosary, in our lives today. They were both fabulous speakers and my pen couldn't take notes fast enough in an effort to remember all that they had to say.

But the highlights came in the little moments that punctuated the day...the opportunity for confession; seeing my son, John, fill in as a last minute server with the seminarians from St. Francis de Sales Seminary at the closing Mass with Bishop Perry from Chicago and being touched by the sight of John holding the Bishop's staff; witnessing the many, many people who stopped at my booth and offered a prayer at the statue of Our Lady of Fatima that I take with me to promote my organization (the statue belongs to my dear friend and Roses co-hort, Kurt Keidl)and meeting so many people who have a deep love for the Blessed Mother and a desire to pray for priests.

It is an amazing blessing to learn that I am not alone in my vocation to offer my all-my prayers and my life-for the sanctity of the many priests who bless my life, who bless all of our lives, with the gift of Christ personified through the Sacraments of the Church. So when I met people at the conference who were as excited as I am about praying for priests and who share my love and devotion for the Blessed Mother, I couldn't help but be overjoyed.

But by far, there was one person in particular who moved my heart at the conference. As I was busy working the crowd and sharing information about Roses and the MPRP, along came my friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, who introduced me to Erin Berghouse, a woman who shares my interest in praying for priests. Erin is not only a beautiful person on the outside, but she is also a beautifully holy soul on the inside with the gift of a lovely singing voice which she generously shares for the glory of God. Erin had been the guest soloist of the day, singing Anima Christi after Holy Communion and several of her original compositions about the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the day. Her music is amazingly beautiful and touching; each time she sang I was overcome with chills and tears. Erin is clearly filled with the Holy Spirit and is as equally moved as I am to pray for priests. How lovely it is to meet a kindred spirit and a new friend!

Please visit Erin's website to learn more about her and to order her music. For a sampling you might enjoy The Priest Song which she wrote in honor of the Year of the Priest.

As I spent time this weekend gazing upon the face of Jesus with Mary, it became evident to me that Jesus and Mary were both gazing upon me as well, and the looks they shared with me were pure love, and so when I finally do succumb to sleep I know it will be under the ever watchful looks of love from my beautiful Jesus and His Blessed Mother. Sweet dreams my friends!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sancta Maria

In honor of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary I am going to spend a busy weekend attending the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate's special Mass and rosary conference where I will promote Roses for Our Lady followed by Roses for Our Lady's monthly Holy Hour for Vocations with an outdoor Eucharistic Rosary procession on Sunday. Before I know it the weekend will be over and I will be too exhausted to post anything, but I just couldn't let this extraordinary feast day pass by without some special words in honor of Our Blessed Mother, so I found this classic poem to share...

Sancta Maria by Edgar Allen Poe

Sancta Maria! turn thine eyes -
Upon the sinner's sacrifice,
Of fervent prayer and humble love,
From thy holy throne above.

At morn - at noon - at twilight dim -
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe - in good and ill -
Mother of God, be with me still!

When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;

Now, when storms of Fate o'ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Pope's Prayer Group

The first Wednesday of every month is volunteer day at the Apostleship of Prayer where many apostles of prayer in the Milwaukee area (myself included!) gather to send out the Pope's monthly prayer intentions to all of the apostles of prayer throughout the world. We begin with Mass followed by offering the work of our hearts and hands to glorify the Lord. Visit the Apostleship of Prayer website to learn more and to sign up to join the Pope's Prayer Group-become an Apostle of Prayer! (Thanks to Fr. Phil Hurley, SJ for the photos featuring my Goddaughter, Marigold!)

Ordination 2011

Have you got your tissues handy? (Thanks to Fr. Kevin McManaman for the link to this video!)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Surface and Rise

"I carry my depression like a millstone around my neck." ~Elizabeth Esther

The above quote makes perfect sense to me; I know that depression drags a person down until they feel as if they are drowning in sorrow. My Catholic faith sends me to the saints for relief, but somehow, St. Dymphna as the patron saint for those suffering from mental illness just never did anything for me, I couldn't relate to the dramatic story of that young girl fleeing from her murderously lustful father as a source of comfort in my ordinary sorrow. But today I came across a lovely article from Zenit (which follows) that cast a new light on the Blessed Mother and her intercession in helping those who are washed over in the depths of despair. In Our Lady of the Well I've found another reason to fly to the arms of the Blessed Mother, for in her I am given hope that no matter how low I may feel, I will always surface and rise to joy once again.

Patroness of Depressed Enthroned in Argentina

LOS CARDALES, Argentina, OCT. 3, 2011 ( The Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the depressed was enthroned in a parish in Argentina.

Bishop Oscar Sarlinga of Zarate-Campana on Saturday enthroned Mary in her manifestation as Our Lady of the Well (Madonna del Pozzo).

In 2006, the bishop established this devotion to Our Lady as a recourse for the depressed, due to the tradition surrounding the image.

This dedication dates to the year 1256. The original image of Our Lady of the Well, painted on a stone tile, is in the church of Santa Maria in Via in Rome.

One account relates that in the 13th century, a servant at a Roman cardinal's house flung the heavy stone into a well, perhaps out of contempt, anger or hatred. Tradition holds, however, that it remained miraculously floating on the waters. Another version states that the well overflowed, and the image was found floating on the water.

The people of Rome and the Pope himself believed that the Virgin wished to show that despite our being submerged by those who hate us or do not know us, or are wounded and seek to wound us, we can always surface and rise, even against the physical laws of nature and the psyche.

Pope Honorius honored the image in 1256 carrying it in procession through the city of Rome.

Now this Virgin suggests to many faithful the possibility of being able to rise, to surface from the depths of distress, sadness and sorrow.

Christian joy

Bishop Sarlinga acknowledged the "pastoral need to address with faith and hope the realm of anxiety and depression in which not a few of our brothers and sisters live."

In a letter addressed in 2007 to people suffering from depression, anxiety and situations of great need, the bishop reminded that Christian joy "stems from hope that cannot disappoint, from that 'already but not yet,' which is the anticipation of the glory of heaven."

According to the prelate, "depression is a particularly complex ailment present in our contemporary age that is characterized -- as in no other age -- by progress in scientific knowledge and man's control over the planet, but also marked by abandonment, loneliness, uncertainty and the myriad possibilities of frustration, so often originating in the senselessness of life, that is, in which human life seems for many to have no meaning, or otherwise originating from external factors, such as grave inflicted injustices, unjust poverty, disappointments, calumnies, frauds, tragic loss of loved ones, loss of faith and hope because of scandal or laziness or the malevolence of those who should help."

He encouraged the depressed to accept their suffering as a way of participating in the Passion of Christ, and to pray and have frequent recourse to the sacraments.

"A spiritual recovery will be invaluable help for those suffering from anxiety, depression and states of urgent need," the bishop said, "because they will be helped to love themselves more, to appreciate themselves more and to recover the sense of a just struggle, of hope, and of a way out from the darkness of despair."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Neighbor

"You shall love the Lord, your God,with all your heart,with all your being,with all your strength,and with all your mind,and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27

Looking back to the weekend just past, my time was filled with fun and meaningful events like attending the Rector's Dinner, the largest fund-raiser for St. Francis de Sales Seminary, going to a wine tasting with my husband and his sister, cheering on my daughter at her double-header volleyball games and standing witness with my parish at the Life Chain.

But by far, the highlight of the weekend was a special little trip that my oldest son John and I made on Sunday evening. John and Justin both work at a nearby nursing home in the dietary department. They love to share stories about the people who live there, and our family almost feels as if we know the sweet residents of the nursing home after hearing so many wonderful tales.

One woman, in particular, seems to be the topic of discussion at our home quite a bit. H. lives in the independent apartments that are attached to the nursing home. Poor H. seems to be ready for assisted living as her memory is quite poor and the boys often say that she is poorly cared for, and on top of that, many of the other nursing home residents dislike her and criticize her for her memory loss.

The independents are allowed to come to the dining room for dinner during the week, but on weekends the food served at the nursing home is for the assisted care residents only. (I don't understand that rule, do you?) It seems that on both Saturday and Sunday she came down to the dining room looking for food and the staff had to send her away because it was a weekend. John was especially heartbroken when he came home from work on Sunday afternoon and he told us that once again H. was looking for food, complaining about how hungry she was, but the staff had to send her back to her apartment or they could get in trouble for breaking the rules and feeding her. (Time to change that rule, don't you agree?) John overheard one of the nursing assistant's say that H. didn't have any food in her apartment. H.'s only son lives out of state, so she is all alone with no one to care for her.

On Sundays I always like to make a big family dinner, and since my husband has taken a second job and had to work and my daughter was eating dinner at a friend's house, we had lots of food left over. So, John and I made up a plate of dinner and packed up a bag of groceries and took it to H. at her apartment. John's description of her was quite accurate; she was incredibly sweet but also noticeably forgetful. She recognized John but didn't remember his name. She asked me if I was his girlfriend and when I told her that I was his mom she so kindly told me that I don't look old enough to be his mother. I immediately fell in love with her after that! When I told her my name she mentioned that Anne is her favorite name. Then, five minutes later, she asked "What was your name again?"

When we offered her the dinner, she mentioned that she did eat dinner already so we put the dinner and groceries in her nearly empty refrigerator, said goodbye, and went downstairs for a tour of the kitchen. One of the girls who was doing the dishes told us that H. did come down for dinner once again and she didn't care if she got in trouble or not, she gave H. a bowl of chili. (Good girl!) It did my heart good to know that there were staff members there who would risk getting "in trouble" at work to assure that a hungry 94-year-old woman had some nutritious food in her stomach.

Six blocks from my home a sweet little woman lives all alone in a world that often mistreats her for her mental capacity. During this month dedicated to respecting life I will remember that woman who is only six short blocks from my home. She is my neighbor and I will strive to love her as I love myself.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Solemn Resolution of Love

“He who would truly honor the priesthood must do so by helping priests. I would rather have a hand in getting one priest back to the altar of God than to write a thousand books on the priesthood, or to preach a million sermons on the glory of the priesthood, for neither the sermons nor the books can hold Christ in their hands and offer Him to the Father.”
~Very Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, s.P.

One of the things that I most enjoy about blogging is the ability that we all have to learn from such diverse sources about the varied communities and groups within our Catholic Church of which we might not ever have a previous knowledge. Joe, at Defend Us In Battle, who writes from Alaska, had recently written about a group of contemplative nuns at Cor Jesu Monastery in New Mexico, The Handmaids of the Precious Blood, which touched my heart here in Wisconsin and has changed my life in a profound way.

The Handmaids of the Precious Blood devote their lives to perpetual Eucharistic Adoration for the sanctification of Priests. They offer several external prayer apostolates so that those who are not in their community may join them in prayer for priests at whichever level may best suit their lives.

The Handmaids of the Precious Blood were founded in 1947 by Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, SP and the lay apostolates were added in the 1980's by Fr. John Hardon, SJ who replaced Fr. Fitzgerald as the order's spiritual director upon Fr. Fitzgerald's death.

Since I had begun a Monthly Prayer Request for Priests in Milwaukee last September, I felt that an opportunity to become an Oblate of the Precious Blood would be a beautiful way to deepen my prayer of love for the priesthood, so I applied to the order to determine whether or not God might be calling me to this life of deeper prayer.

"Begun under the guidance of the Servant of God Father John A. Hardon, S.J. on the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 21, 1981, the Oblates of the Precious Blood program was founded to allow priests, religious, deacons, and laity to more closely affiliate themselves with the mission and spirit of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood. Oblates of the Precious Blood bind themselves to our apostolate of prayer and sacrifice for priests by willingly committing themselves to lives completely dedicated to God, doing everything out of love for God and for the sanctification of priests. From their homes, their families, their work, their rectories, their dioceses, their missions, their hermitages, and their cloisters they reach out spiritually to priest souls in need, offering every joy and sorrow, all pain and suffering to God in love on behalf of priests. They dedicate themselves to learning the spirituality of our Founder, Father Gerald Fitzgerald, s.P. and give themselves in a lifelong resolution to live for God alone. Candidates undergo a formation period by correspondence conducted from our Motherhouse in New Mexico before making a private Solemn Resolution of Love. The Oblates are not a third order and members of third orders may apply for candidacy. World wide, there are at present over 420 Oblates of the Precious Blood. " ~from the Handmaids of the Precious Blood website

On Thursday October 27th, my friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, will officiate at a ceremony following Mass in my living room in which I will become enrolled as a candidate for Oblates of the Precious Blood. Following the ceremony, I will begin a formation period through correspondence with the order and, God-willing, it won't be long before I make a Solemn Resolution of Love and become accepted as an Oblate of the Precious Blood and will offer every aspect of my life and prayer for the sanctification of priests.

I ask you to please keep me in your prayers as I move ahead with this effort. Also, I encourage you to visit the website of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood to learn more about this beautiful order and their saintly founder.