Thursday, March 31, 2011

Depth Perception-Fr. Don Hying

I'm looking deeper within my soul this year trying to come to a peaceful acceptance of the life that God has given me in both the blessings and the burdens. One of the blessings that God often uses to help me look deep within myself is my good friend, Fr. Don Hying, the rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. Through his words of wisdom I see myself a little more clearly, I understand myself a little bit better, and gradually I am growing into a deeper acceptance of myself while falling more deeply in love with God. Once again, Fr. Don generously shares his words of wisdom, his scriptural reflection on this Sunday's gospel (Jn 9:1-41), from his most recent Catholic Herald column, with Imprisoned in my Bones readers.



The post-communion song at a wedding I celebrated recently was titled: “If you could see what I see.” The singer ardently wishes that his beloved could see herself as he sees her, because she is so beautiful, authentic and good, but then comes to realize that she can only come to see and know herself through his eyes and perception, as long as he keeps telling her who he sees and how that feels to him.

Today’s Gospel is the moving narrative of the man born blind who is healed by Jesus. Last week was the woman at the well; next week is the raising of Lazarus. These three narratives from John’s Gospel are models of conversion, using the images of water, light and new life and serve as profound reflections both for the catechumens preparing for baptism and the entire Church in this season of Lent. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly heals blind people, not only of their physical disability but, more to the point, their lack of spiritual vision.


Our world today is becoming increasingly visual, from posting pictures on Facebook to streaming video on the Web to visualized conversations that are texted. Yet, we can easily remain on the superficial plane of the exterior of things, accepting at face value what we rapidly perceive, but never lingering long enough to dig below the surface of the images that others present to us. Depth perception requires prayer, silence and reflection.


If we just skim along the top layer of Catholicism, the Eucharist becomes a sentimental symbol, the Scriptural stories of Christ become like bedtime tales, and the moral life a naïve and unreachable ideal. If our heart and spirit is not moving ever more deeply into the vast mystery of God, our religious practice quickly becomes an empty ritual that we eventually put in a drawer along with our faded First Communion pictures and broken childhood rosaries.


I know when I am giving prayer short shrift in my life because I stop seeing, truly perceiving the miraculous truth, stunning beauty and overwhelming goodness that surround me. When I go on retreat at New Melleray Abbey, a Trappist monastery in rural Iowa, having stepped away from the ceaseless routine, I immediately see everything in a different light. The sunrise becomes a cosmic event, filled with pulsating light; the birds in the trees are performing a symphony better than any concert hall can offer and the food tastes spectacular because I am actually taking the time to enjoy it.


In reading the lives of Saint Camillus and Saint John of God, two remarkable servants of the sick, I have always been fascinated and inspired by their ability to literally see Christ in the people they served, the more repulsive the better. Their spiritual vision of the Lord in the suffering has a palpability to it, a tangibility that saves it from being a pious thought. The saints loved so astoundingly and sacrificially because they saw the world from God’s perspective. Standing in the dazzling light of Christ, they saw life and death, good and evil, the beauty, tragedy and possibility of the human person in such vivid colors, that they felt their experiences with a passion that we can barely comprehend, and thus did the heroic and bold thing.


Is my vision improving this Lent? Is Sunday Eucharist a consummation of God’s love in my soul? Do I see the beautiful possibilities in the people around me or only their problems and faults? Underneath the thousand details that make up the surface of my life, am I embracing a deep interiority of prayer that, every once in awhile, leads me to the very heartbeat of God? Am I coming to literally see Christ in the poor, the sick, the Mass, the Gospel, the rising of the sun, and my own little life?

In the first reading, Samuel anoints David as king, much to the astonishment of his family. Then he says, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” Through faith, prayer and the sacraments, Jesus gradually heals our vision, to see as He sees and then to become an extension of His love and presence in the world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pieces of Prayer


















I bend to pick up a colorful bit of glass,
rub the sand off, and whisper a prayer...
again and again I repeat the action-
bend, rub and pray as I place the sea glass in my bag

before long I have a bag full of pieces of prayer
representing my gratitude and my worry
tangible reminders of my solitary walk
with the Lord on the lakeshore

and my soul feels His peace
through my pieces of prayer

whether the wind blows fierce under sky of gray
and the waves violently crash into rocky shore
or the day is mild with blue sky
and water gently laps at the beach
I am there walking along the water
collecting my pieces of prayer

and my soul feels His peace
through my pieces of prayer

Monday, March 28, 2011

Right Down the Hall


I have worked at my present job for the past fourteen years. I like what I do, I know that I am helping people, and the money I earn is a help to my family budget. So, all's good, right? Not really, not at all...


My employer used to hold an annual company picnic, a huge family gala at the Milwaukee County Zoo, lots of fun for my little ones. It was about ten years ago as my family and I were approaching the zoo when we noticed lots and lots of people holding signs protesting the fact that my employer allowed abortions to be performed at one of their hospitals. Guess which hospital it was? Yep. The very hospital I work at-Aurora Sinai. I was surprised and devasted at the same time, but thankful to those brave men and women who had the courage to stand up for life in a very visable place and bring attention to this horrible yet hidden fact. Aurora Health Care has not had a company picnic since that day. But me? I had no idea that babies were being murdered in the very building in which my WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Clinic is located!


I decided that the only right thing to do would be to quit my job. When I told one of my sisters about my decision, she discouraged me. She told me that my presence at the hospital was combatting the murderous abortions. Because of the good that is done through WIC, I am helping women to keep their babies. Her words convinced me and I kept my job and gave very little thought to the fact that while I am counseling a pregnant woman on the benefits of breastfeeding her baby upon birth, another baby is being torn from the safety of his mother's womb, right down the hall!


I am so sorry to say that I have not done a very good job at promoting life or helping women who have already had abortions. My usual reaction is to avoid the statements made by my clients when they confess to having had abortions. It's just too hard for me to hear so I skip right over it and move on to the next question in the diet and health history I'm required to obtain. Then, after the client leaves my office I whisper a prayer for her. I let fear rule my life for far too long.


During the summer months, a group of nurses from the public school system join us in the WIC Clinic and they provide immunizations to the children who are behind on the required doses they need. Last summer, one of the nurses who was using one of my co-worker's offices for the day, found some pro-life material promoting a Women's Support Center in our area. She became livid! She complained to my boss and told her that we should not be giving those materials out, that those types of places don't allow women the choice to govern their own bodies. My boss, being unsure of who we were giving the pamphlets to consulted with me and another one of my co-workers. We told her that we used to give them out to every pregnant woman we saw, but since the State under whom we are governed recently put restrictions on the amount of materials we give to our clients, we now only give them to the women we feel will benefit from these services. My boss told us to continue to give the materials out to anyone whom we felt could use them. Later, after the nurses had gone, I found the pamphlets in the garbage can.


I couldn't believe the nerve of that nurse! She was using someone else's office and throwing out materials that didn't belong to her! I removed the material from the garbage, and thought about how much that nurse must hate using my office when it's my day off of work. My office is filled with images of Mary with the infant Jesus and other religious pictures and prayers. I'm sure the sight of anything remotely holy bothered her immensely.


Occasionally, when I go to the postpartum unit of the hospital to see one of our clients who just delivered a baby, I will notice a picture of a leaf with a teardrop on the door, the sign meaning that the baby in that room has died. I'll also see the initials "ab" on the list of patients which tells me that a baby was aborted. I take note of the name of the doctor and I am always sure to pray for that innocent babe and for the mother who failed to accept the gift of life that had been offered to her. But my actions stop there.


Yesterday I opened my email from Dan Miller, Milwaukee's 40 Days for Life coordinator and I was shocked to read what he wrote. Why I was shocked I don't know-maybe it was because I had pushed the thought of abortions at my hospital to the back of my mind for so long but now the words were right before my eyes; it was unavoidable-


"So far this campaign, we have seen 11 saves and numerous turn-arounds. For years on end, the entire pro-life community has come together to end abortion by prayer and witnessing at the ‘Foot of the Cross’ - at the abortion mills. You have closed six out the nine Milwaukee area abortion mills over the years. That’s an awesome accomplishment! The three that remain are Affiliated Medical Services, Planned Parenthood and Aurora Sinai . These last three are dug in like a Georgia tick and the only way to get those ticks out is HEAT! "


My employer, the very place that I depend upon to provide bread and butter to my family, is one of three abortion mills in Milwaukee. I'm sick. Just sick. I've known it for all these years and I've done nothing. And chances are good that I will go on doing nothing because I don't know what to do. Do I quit my job and go outside with a pro-life sign? Do I go outside right now with a pro-life sign and surely be fired? And why aren't there ever any protesters here?


I would be very open to suggestions and ideas. My fourteen years of prayer in my office haven't changed anything here. A hospital is supposed to be a life-giving environment, not a life-destroying hell. What can be done to apply the HEAT of which Dan speaks, to end this cruel and senseless destruction now? And more importantly for me personally, what should I do right now to take a stand and make a difference, to bring about an end to the evil that occurs right down the hall?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

St. Photini

"Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:5-42






















In the Orthodox tradition the woman at the well is honored as St. Photini. After her interaction with Christ she converted to Christianity, was baptized by the apostles and given the name Photini which means "the enlightened one". She became a tireless evangelist drawing many others to faith in Christ. In the words of Fr. Dave Cooper, "Christ gave her the gift of faith and she in turn gave that gift back to Him."

My parish has a reputation for being "liberal." I am often asked why I belong to such a liberal parish and it makes me think of the classic pick-up line, "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" The truth is, like the sinful woman at the well, I too, am sinful, have met Christ and have been converted. My guess is that everyone of us can call that statement true for themselves, whether we are comfortable admitting our sinfulness or not. Like St. Photini, my parish has been judged and labeled as liberal without the benefit of anyone looking deep within to see the good and holy people who belong there and who do their best to turn from sin and follow the gospel.

According to Fr. Dave, "We don't even know for sure that the living arrangements and lifestyle of the woman at the well was sinful. Could it be that she outlived her previous husbands and now the man with whom she was living was scared to marry her for fear that he would suffer the same fate of death? Yet we are quick to judge her and label her a sinful woman."

In the same vein, people are often quick to judge my parish and everyone who belongs there as liberal, dissenting Catholics who only want to change the Church rather than obediently follow the Pope as we should. I think if people want to see that in my parish, they will, but in truth, there may be just as many dissenting Catholics in parishes that are labeled traditional.

Only Christ can see the truth in our individual hearts. Only Christ can offer us the gift of faith and ask us to return it to him by loving all of those in our midst-liberal or traditional. It is Christ who is coming to us on our mountainside whether we are Jew or Samaritan, traditional or liberal, it is Christ who is calling us to conversion, to a change of heart, to see Him in all things and all people and in turn to share Him with all who cross our path, to evangelize and share our faith with the world.

St. Photini, you were judged as a sinful woman. Whether this is true or not, we know that we all carry sin in our hearts and are in need of the forgiveness that only Christ can provide. Be an example for us of the joy that comes from abandoning our sinful pasts for a new life in the living waters of the Lord. Be with us as we strive to share our faith with others. Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Angels of Annunciation

On this most blessed of Feast Days, my two youngest children and I walked into the pediatrician's office for a quick check up and were surprised when he asked them if they knew what feast day it was today. (They didn't know, much to my embarrassment!) So a big thank you to Dr. Swietlik for the quick religion lesson! How blessed our family is to have a doctor who combines medicine with faith!

I've been blessedly busy these days with my new role in the lay organization Roses for Our Lady. It's been a wonderfully challenging opportunity for me, but it leaves little time for writing or reading blogs, much to my dismay. So, I hope that you will enjoy this re-post for the Feast of the Annunciation. It's one of my favorites and I hope that it will become one of your favorites as well!

Angels of Annunciation

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God”…Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 26-38




















We all have annunciation moments, but unfortunately, we are often unaware of exactly what is happening to us. Sometimes in our busyness we become so preoccupied with ourselves and our own needs that we fail to recognize those angels when they come to us.

In my job as a WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Nutritionist, I have found that the angels of annunciation come to me nearly constantly, but I can be so focused on what I have to do after work, or some problem with my children that nags at the back of my mind, or my own level of fatigue from lack of sleep, that I can let those angels in and out of my office all day long without realizing who they are. What a shame!

But when I open my heart and open my eyes, I see that angels of annunciation are plentiful. God is trying to speak to me through them all day, every day, and when I recognize them, I can’t help but be changed by their message.

I recently met an angel who was a drug addict suffering from the horrific pains of withdrawal. Instead of sitting in my usual seat of judgment, I opened my heart to recognize that the message she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to see through my addiction, to find Jesus inside me. Jesus suffered terribly and now I am suffering as well. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I listened to her story, with tears in my eyes and I was able to offer her comfort and assistance. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

I also met an angel who was a student working through her dietetic internship requirements for graduation. Instead of rushing through my usual day trying to get my job done, I opened my heart to recognize the message that she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to see that you were once in my shoes. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I slowed down from my busy agenda and found the patience to teach her the steps required to give nutrition counseling to young mothers in need. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

One of my favorite angels was a two-year-old girl going through the negative stages through which every two-year-old must pass. Instead of becoming irritated by her temper tantrums and constant use of the word “NO”, I opened my heart to recognize the message that she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to offer me kindness, to remember that it is the little ones such as these to whom Jesus offered the Kingdom of God. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I turned to her with a smile. I offered her a book, a compliment and a pat on the head. She walked out of my office with a smile on her face, calling out “I love you!” “I love you, too!” I called back. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

God’s angels of annunciation are coming to you as well. They are in every person that crosses your path. Will you be open to their messages? Will you hear them say “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God?" Will you feel God’s Spirit coming to you and allow yourself to be open to it? Say yes! Become the handmaid of the Lord and watch the world transform into a beautiful place!

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

a re-post from 6/09, 3/10 and also found on Catholicmom.com

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blessed Is the Fruit of Your Womb


"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

We were alone outside the abortuary on a chilly March evening. It was the first time that any of us had gone to pray at the abortion mill, to make our prayers of supplication for the lives who had not yet been given a voice. The clinic was closed and the busy urban neighborhood was just picking up the feel of nightlife as couples walked by arm in arm, rowdy groups walked into the bar next door, the tattoo shop across the street turned on the flickering neon light, and cars quickly entered and departed from the gas station.

My husband and I, along with our friend, Dave, drew our rosaries from our pockets and prayed the sorrowful mysteries in front of this place that knows far too many sorrows. Dave reminded us that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, there the Lord is also, and he then read some scripture. We shared some uplifting stories about converted abortionists and those who work tirelessly for the pro-life effort. The chill was entering more deeply into our bones and we were getting ready to leave when a man came and stood next to us in silence.

Dave broke the ice and greeted him. He said that he had just wanted to pray the rosary. I told him that we would be happy to pray the rosary with him and so we retrieved our beads from our pockets once again and we prayed another set of the sorrowful mysteries. Each time I spoke the words "Blessed is the fruit of your womb," something moved inside my heart, and I realized that here, in this place where more prayer is offered than in any other secular place, those words have a profound meaning. Blessed is the fruit of every womb, for all life is in His image. And in this place, that fruit is cast out and treated as if it were rotted, decayed, without worth. It isn't offered the dignity in which a blessing from God should be held. The fifth sorrowful mystery occurs again and again here as those precious babies are crucified and cast out from their mother's wombs.

"Prayer reaches out to where we cannot be." Dan Miller, coordinator, 40 Days for Life-Milwaukee

So our prayers went out for the mothers who, feeling their own agony in their desolate part of the garden of life, don't know or understand the value of the life they carry within them.

"Forgive them Father, for they don't know what they do." Luke 23:34

And our prayers went out for the workers whose eyes are blind and whose hearts are cold to the heinous crime they commit day in and day out as they scourge the innocents without restraint.

"There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood."
Proverbs 6:16-19


And our prayers went out for the seeds of life that had been planted with no one to garden and tend them to fruition.

"I am the vine. You are the branches. He that remains in me will bear great fruit." John 15:5

And when we were through, and we turned to say good-bye to the man who had joined us, he thanked us for praying with him. He told us that he was in the neighborhood and just felt like coming here and praying, that it had been quite a few years since he had prayed at this clinic. And then he told us that the man he used to come here and pray with many years ago was Fr. Don Hying, the same priest whose words about his prayer experience at these doors of death inspired me to want to come here to pray.

Today, at this place where souls have been tragically lost far more often than they are saved, I felt the presence of God. Although I was now shivering from the cold, my heart was warm, for I knew that my prayers and the prayers of those who joined me would somehow bring the blessed fruit within the womb of a desperate young mother to life.

And as we walked back to Dave's van, we saw a young couple walking arm in arm, smiling and laughing with one another, and we couldn't help but notice that her womb was ripe with a growing life.

"Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother¹s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. My soul also you knew full well; nor was my frame unknown to you when I was made in secret, when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth"
Psalm 139:13-15

Friday, March 18, 2011

Prayer of the Icon























every movement of the brush
every drop of paint carefully
released to the wood

is a prayer written with care
from a heart
overflowing with love

and I look at the icon of
Christ, the King of my heart
and I pray

for the one whose
craft brought this image
of Christ to life

the icon of Christ
is alive for me
I can almost see His heart beating

hear His voice calling to me
whispering words of love to me
His servant

my King reminds me
that the pains of this world
will be overcome

and one day I will rejoice with Him
forever in the splendor
of His Most Sacred Heart

O Jesus, King of my heart
how I long for that day
when our hearts will eternally be one!

~many, many thanks to Christi, my sweet friend, whose many hours of prayer while writing icons must be the source of her love, generosity and kindness-the above picture of the Most Holy Sacred Heart of Jesus is the work of her steady brush and her heart-felt prayer

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Chair















Last fall I was visiting one of my all-time favorite places, The Salzmann Library at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, when I was greeted by a mass of chairs as I walked in the door. "What's up with the chairs?" I asked Mark, one of the library staff members, and was told that they were being put away in storage where nobody would probably ever see them again. I couldn't help but notice what nice condition they were in. "Too bad," I said. "We could use nice chairs like that in our house. My kids are forever stepping on the spindles and breaking them. It drives my husband nuts. I think that when he dies, he will have a bottle of glue in his hand as a testimony to all of the time he has spent gluing the chairs back together!"

The same thing could have been said about my own father. He was forever repairing chairs and then fussing about how recklessly we nine kids would sit in them, often rocking back on two legs, or not having them evenly balanced just right on the uneven kitchen floor so they wouldn't wobble. It must be the curse of fatherhood to worry about kitchen chairs!

As I was lost in those youthful memories, Mark took me by surprise when he asked me how many chairs I would like to take home with me, and then he helped me load up the back of my van. What fun it is to have part of my favorite place in my very own home! My family and I are now the proud owners of eight fine, used library chairs and we make very good use of them every night at the dinner table.

Or not.

I wonder, does every family with a majority of teenage boys have as much constant chaos in it as mine does? Dinner always includes loud and lively banter about the fights they witnessed at school, which teacher gives the least homework or the latest sports news, all mixed in with a healthy dose of teasing one another.

While dishes are assigned and everyone is busy clearing the table and heading off for homework or evening activities, there is sure to be some type of physical steam being aggressively released as the boys begin with good-natured slapping that often ends up in a physical wrestle of sorts. Tonight was no different as a classic scene of rough-housing ensued with one son teasing, the other punching back. But to our horror one son got carried away and picked up one of our precious library chairs in a classic WWF wrestling move and lifted it as if he were going to swing it at his brother. Dad effectively put an end to that nonsense.

All he had to say was "Hey! A priest sat in that chair!" and the fight was over with the chair once again gently placed at the kitchen table, and the two troublemakers doing dinner dishes as punishment for their crime. Such is the respect our family feels for the priesthood, that holy and venerable vocation, that an ordinary chair can become a sacred item simply because a priest had used it during his Seminary studies!

Finding the sacred in the ordinary-isn't it amazing that God reveals his presence in the simple things? In addition to chairs, I have gratefully found Him in--

~an unbuttoned coat on a March afternoon

~gentle words of understanding from a friend

~the shifting sands of the beach after the snow melts

~the gift of hearty bread from Sister Doris each week

~the North Star lighting the sky and guiding my life
~a note of thanks in the mail with the gift of icons enclosed
~using the gifts He has given me to work for His glory

~laughter at the dinner table after a long day

~working off the weight and the stress on the elliptical trainer

~lake so blue I could melt in it


Where do you find the sacred in your ordinary?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Moving Fences

At Mass this morning, Fr. Dave shared this wonderful story:



"Many years ago, there was a woman who lived in a small village in France. Trained as a nurse, she devoted her life to caring for the sick and needy. After many years of kind and selfless service to the village's families, the woman died.

She had no family of her own, so the townsfolk planned a beautiful funeral for her, a fitting tribute to the woman to whom so many owed their lives.

The parish priest, however, pointed out that, because she was a Protestant, she could not be buried in the town's Catholic cemetery. The villagers protested, but the priest held firm. It was not easy for the priest either, because he too had been cared for by the woman during a serious illness. But the law of the Church was very clear; she would have to be buried outside the fence of the cemetery. The day of the funeral arrived, and the whole village accompanied the woman's casket to the cemetery, where she was buried outside the fence. But that night, a group of villagers, armed with shovels, sneaked into the cemetery. They quietly set to work moving the fence." (source unknown)

"When Mass is over," he said, "we will leave this holy place, but then, like those villagers, it will be our job to spend the day moving fences, drawing every event of our day into the realm of God, seeing Him in all things. In this way, our entire day will become a prayer. In the words of St. Francis de Sales, 'For the best prayer is that which keeps us so occupied with God that we don't think about ourselves or what we are doing.'"

O Lord, sometimes it is so hard to move those fences, to see You in others and to see You in hardships and to build my fence around You so that You are never left out in the cold, away from my heart. I get so busy that I forget to turn to You, to think of You. Lord, at those moments when I am occupied with something other than You and Your presence in this amazing world that You created, send your angel to guide me in moving the fence so that you will always remain within the boundaries of my heart and every moment of my day will become a prayer. Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grounded











can I travel into tomorrow
or return to yesterday?

can I move the hands of time
change the position in which they lay?

I can only be here now
grounded is where I'll stay

for I'm grounded in the Lord
my only Truth and Way

the present is full of His presence
He is always here, now and today

I can feel Him in my soul
as I close my eyes and pray.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Born Again for Life

On February 28th, I posted The Truth Hurts about the pro-life banner that was taken down in New York City because some people found it to be offensive. I ended that post with a prayer and am amazed at how quickly God has worked to answer that prayer...

Lord, give me a heart of compassion, a heart of love for all. Wake me up from the dread fear and sorrow that grips my heart in the presence of painful truths. Give me strength to cope and courage to turn the hearts of others so that everyone will value life, will give life, your greatest gift to us all. And please, God, don't ever let me grow comfortable upon hearing those words "My most recent pregnancy ended in abortion." Let me always feel the discomfort and pain that the loss of innocent life rightly deserves. Amen.

And then I promptly forgot that I had written that prayer and went on with my busy life.

This past Monday morning just a little over a week since I wrote that prayer, I received an email from Fr. Don Hying with only a few words-"Just wanted to share this with you." I was so deeply and immediately moved by what I read in his attachment that with his permission, I sent it to everyone I knew and then posted it here on this blog and sent the link to Deacon Greg Kandra at the Deacon's Bench. It wasn't long before the good Deacon posted Fr. Don's story as well.

But that wasn't enough. For I now knew that I had to do more. Sharing Fr. Don's story was one thing, and really it was quite easy for me to do, but now I felt that God was calling me to do more than just get the word out...God was calling me to act.

With those few words-"Just wanted to share this with you"- I heard the voice of God telling me to get ready to change my life, to be born again, because He was about to answer my prayer...

Way back when in 1976, I was a fifth grade student at Sacred Heart Catholic Grade school in the small city of Manitowoc, WI. My teacher encouraged me to enter a forensics contest with the theme "Together We Will..." My mother decided for me that I would speak about abortion. Truthfully, I think she really wrote the speech, "Together We Will Fight Abortion," for me. I took first place in the city's Optimist Club Oratorical Contest that year and went on to compete against several high school students in a zone competition with the same speech and won third place.

Following that I presented that same speech for several Catholic women's groups and then my nerves finally got the best of me and I asked my mom to say no the next time someone asked me to present it. The words that my mother wrote and the way in which I presented them were strong enough to win a contest and touch hearts way back then, but they weren't strong enough for me to live them. In the thirty-five years following fifth grade I never really did anything in my life to support the pro-life cause or to fight abortion.

Sure, I donated to Wisconsin Right to Life whenever they would call. Yes, my family and I stood along a busy highway holding pro-life signs each October for the annual Life Chain in our community. Of course, I have always voted pro-life. But those things are easy compared to actively praying outside of an abortion clinic, standing face to face with women who are about to kill the child within their wombs.

So, I called my friend Dave who organizes the Life Chain group for my parish. I asked him if he could help me get a group of people together to join in prayer with the 40 Days for Life campaign at the abortion clinic. Dave was eager to help and we arranged a date, this March 19th, when he and I and hopefully many others will join together in prayer with the purpose of saving lives. And it is my hope that March 19th will be the first of many days when I prayerfully witness for life at the abortuary.

And so, this Lent, my prayer, my fasting, my almsgiving-will all be offered to save the lives of those innocent, sweet, precious little babies. God is reborn in me each and every day. With every day that I wake to the morning light, rub my eyes and flutter my lashes, I am born again to God's love for me, God's gifts to me, God's life in me; but, those babies torn from their mother's wombs never get the light of day, the flutter of lashes, the chance to be born even once. For those innocent babies, for those mothers who swallow lies and carry shame and heartache instead of life, for those doctors and deathscorts and office workers who close their hearts to the truth-I will give my all this Lent.

Marked


I receive the ashes that label me as His child, His own.

Dust flakes down into my eyes, flirting with my lashes and
blurring my vision of worldly things, reminding me that the
spiritual realm can often contain that which is dirty, dusty and dark.

I let the ash that marks me settle deep within my soul,
allowing it to mingle with the sorrow and joy that God's love
has carefully placed within me.

Those fierce emotions dwelling in my soul churn the dark ashes,
the reminder of sin and suffering,
to create something new and pure from them,
preparing me for what will hopefully be
my eventual presentation to the Lord in Heaven.

I am marked as His own and will carry that mark
from my forehead to my soul
beyond this season of Lent and into forever.

(a revised re-post from the archives)

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Story From the Abortion Mill by Fr. Don Hying

~A Guest Post~

Late last Saturday morning, a group of us went to pray at the abortuary on Farwell Avenue. Usually, I go earlier in the day when pregnant women are entering the building and the pro-abortion escorts are stationed in front to keep the clients from talking to us. At 11 AM, the escorts were gone because all of the women were already inside. One by one, the women came out, walking slowly, looking dazed, holding a brown bag, gingerly entering their boyfriend’s car and driving away. It was heartbreaking, like watching a steady stream of casualties returning from some gruesome and hidden front, where the invisible violence could only be read on the bodies of the survivors.

After praying a rosary and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, we were thinking about leaving when suddenly a woman who has worked at the abortion mill for years in some form of management came driving up in her Jaguar, dashed inside and emerged moments later. As she passed me, I spoke in a quiet and calm voice, “Stop killing people here!” She turned on me in a visceral and hysterical rage, shouting about priests abusing little boys, calling me “pathetic”, enraged by my promise to pray for her and finally giving me the finger as she drove away.

What impressed me about such a brief and disturbing incident was the startling fact that the woman never denied that she was indeed helping to kill people or that what I said was in any way false. Unable to articulate any cogent or logical response to my quiet demand, she responded with hysteria, obscenity and ad hominem assaults. The immediate reaction of rage and hate, shorn of any logic or sense, led me to see how weakened the abortionist position has become. With the women’s care center across the street, growing numbers of people who identify themselves as pro-life and new legislative momentum the folks at Affiliated see the power of their pro-death stance weakening.


With the 40 Days For Life starting this Ash Wednesday, now is the time for us to give public witness to our belief in the sanctity of nascent life. The abortionists want their deeds to go unseen, unnoticed and unchallenged. By our public prayer and presence, we shine the light of God on a very dark place.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

North Star-A Guest Post by Fr. Don Hying

"Through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from your radiance." Elizabeth of the Trinity














I am fortunate to have the friendship of good and holy priests; bright lights who flicker and shine and glisten with the spark of divine wisdom, and who lead me to the only Light who can sustain me.

What follows is a reflection from my very dear friend, Fr. Don Hying, the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, who is a holy beacon of brilliance for many up and coming future priests. Because of the efforts of Fr. Don and the Seminary staff, the lives of these priests-to-be will shine brightly like so many glimmering stars, leading many souls to holiness; to heaven. Fr. Don's reflection is based on the Gospel of Matthew 7:21-27 for Sunday, March 6th and is followed by my own response of prayer to his meaningful words.

To say that we live in anxious times would be an understatement. Whether we look at the global, national or local situation, the institutions, structures or certainties that people have relied on for security seem to be crumbling. Politics, religion, economics, education, technology and society are in the midst of a difficult ferment. Something new is emerging, but we cannot say yet what that might be. So much uncertainty creates stress and fear.

In the middle of this existential crisis comes this Sunday's Gospel, the conclusion to Jesus' great Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, the parable of the house built on rock versus the one built on sand. So after proclaiming the highest ideals concerning fasting, almsgiving, forgiveness, prayer, dependence on God, refraining from judgment, Jesus sums it all up by calling his listeners to put into practice everything they have heard.

I love to study church history, especially the times of persecution, trial and upheaval. The early era of martyrdom, the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Reformation, the French Revolution, the rise of Nazism and communism were all moments when the church faced profound crises that seemed to threaten its very existence. Yet, in the midst of violence, betrayal, institutional breakdown, loss of faith, and even death itself, saints emerged, courageous people who had built their houses on the rock of Christ and his church, and thus served as pillars of strength, hope, renewal and reform in times of great darkness and confusion.

Perpetua and Felicity suffered martyrdom in the persecution of Septimus Severus at Carthage in 203. They embraced an unspeakable series of tortures, culminating in a terrible death by being thrown to wild beasts. These remarkable women not only endured such horror, but actively rejoiced in it.


John Fisher was the only English bishop who would not submit to Henry VIII when the king rejected the pope as the head of the church. He paid for his integrity with a long prison stay in the Tower, followed by a beheading. After the Reformation, a dynamic group of leaders emerged in different places, working for renewal within the church. Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Charles Borromeo, Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal come to mind.


During the French Revolution, a convent of cloistered nuns at Compiegne went to the guillotine singing, rejecting the rabid secularity of the new government. Interned at Auschwitz, Maximilian Kolbe was a bright light of faith, hope and love for countless prisoners in one of the most hellish places in history.


This Gospel and these saints remind us that Christ is literally the only security we have in this world. Wealth, success, health, a long life, a happy marriage, employment-none of these things are guaranteed or promised to us, and therefore, we cannot put our ultimate trust in them. Jesus' love for us, his promise of salvation, the consolation of the Eucharist, the enduring power of the Word of God, the truths of our Catholic faith-these mysterious gifts constitute our North Star, that one, sacred, fixed point which will guide us securely to the Kingdom of Heaven. (emphasis mine)

How do we build our house on the rock of Christ? Regular, active participation in the Eucharist, a steady recognition of our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation, daily prayer, service to the poor and sick, spiritual reading, the faithful practice of virtue, living our faith in the world as we find it-all of these activities set the house of our fragile human existence on the unshakable
foundation of Jesus Christ. When the storms come, we will not collapse, because we are grounded and centered in the Lord of life.

When everything we have clung to for security crumples up and blows away, and we are left bereft and broken, we can only cling to Jesus and his promise that he will be with us always until the end of time. That assurance is the only thing that will get us through everything and let us even find some joy along the way!


*********************************************

O love of Jesus, warm my path in the cold dark night, draw me into your embrace.
O promise of Salvation, brighten my days,assure me of the hope of heaven.
O consolation of the Eucharist, comfort me with your luminous balm.
O enduring power of the Word of God, linger in my heart; strengthen my fortitude.
O truths of my Catholic faith, enlighten my mind to the depths of your wisdom.
O mysterious gifts of the North Star, illuminate my entire being, make me shine for You.
Amen.

"Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy and your face may not blush with shame."
Psalm 34:5

(Fr. Don's reflection originally appeared in the March 3rd edition of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald)

Enough

When you tapped my soul, Lord
and said "Now is the time"
a great broom swept through
my being emptying it of all the useless
clutter that resided there
and it left a void, a space that
couldn't endure being without.

So I busy myself with the
never-ending work of filling
my soul with You-
but how useless it is!

For years I devour
everything that comes in my path;
I read and think and pray and talk and listen;
I question and answer and wonder and reflect.

It's never enough,
never enough.

I want more of You, Lord
I want all of You!

Will I ever be satisfied?
Will I ever say "Now I can rest"?
How can I be satiated with the infinity
of the Eternal?

For me, it's impossible
but not for You, Lord.

Fill me, water me with Your Word,
feed me with Your Love.
Quench my thirst for You.
Please, just give me enough.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In the Palm of my Hand


A few years ago a friend of mine went to Fatima. When he returned, he gave me a wooden rosary that he had purchased there. With its soft wooden beads and slightly raised corpus that felt just sharp enough at the edges to remind me of His pain, it quickly became my favorite "sleeping rosary" and I put all of my other rosaries into my dresser drawer and kept this one out on top so that I could easily pick it up as I would drag my weary body to bed each evening. As I would drift off to sleep, I would finger the beads and feel comforted knowing that the Blessed Mother was with me, holding my hand, as I reflected on her Son's life and how I had tried to emulate Him in the day now past.

You could say that my parents had a rosary collecting hobby and when their bodies no longer graced the soil of this earth, my eight siblings and I inherited more rosaries to share between us than anyone could ever possibly use in a lifetime. So the fact that this particular rosary became my favorite bedtime companion is saying quite a lot.

Over time, the rosary began to break. I'd wake in the morning disheartened to find the wire broken between beads, but would get out my needle-nosed pliers and repair it. And repair it. And repair it. Finally, the day came when this wild sleeper wreaked the last bit of havoc upon my sacred rosary and I had to finally admit that it was beyond any further repair. The beads are all now gathered in a dish on top of my dresser, and I am reduced to sleeping with the crucifix firmly planted in the palm of my hand throughout the night.

Last night I couldn't find the crucifix on my dresser. I checked under the pillows and down in the bottom of the sheets thinking I had forgotten to take it with me when I got out of bed in the morning. No luck, I couldn't find it. So, I went to bed without it, and being quite exhausted, I easily fell asleep without it.

Our family has been suffering a bit of stress lately over a son who is struggling in school. We've been giving it our all with doctor appointments, medication adjustments, tutoring from the world's most fabulous nun and retired teacher, help from siblings, frequent conferences with the teacher, reminders, coaxing, yelling, withholding privileges, etc. You know a mother worries and my mind is easily carried away into thoughts of quitting my job so that I can home-school him, or at least reducing my hours so that I will be there when he arrives home at the end of the school day. And, I hate to admit it, but I even let my mind go to the thought that he might benefit from being held back a year in school.

With these worries heavy on my heart and mind, I woke early this morning with tears running hot down my face. My crying disturbed my husband who asked me what was on my mind. I responded, "It all seems so hopeless." And he reached over and placed my crucifix in the palm of my hand and asked, "Do you want this?" Paul had been sleeping with my crucifix! He must have found it on his side of the bed in the morning and put it on his dresser instead of on mine! And his timing for returning it was perfect!

With my crucifix held firmly in the palm of my hand, I felt a return of the hope I was bemoaning did not exist. If Jesus could suffer that tortuous pain on the cross and rise beyond it, then I knew that my family, too, would rise beyond our current worries, for nothing is hopeless with the presence of the risen Christ in our hearts! And now, I think it's time I help Paul find a "sleeping rosary" of his own!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Praise as Sacrifice

"Offer to God praise as your sacrifice and fulfill your vows to the Most High. He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me."
Psalm 50











husband woos me
again and again
in so many little ways

a bottle of wine
a dreaded chore done so I don't have to do it
an unexpected compliment

a kiss on the cheek and a gentle embrace
and I push him away
too busy...always too busy for romance and affection

God woos me too

flowers in the springtime
and icicles in the winter
quiet when I fear I will drown
in the noise of life

and just like I treat my husband
God gets pushed away as well

too busy...always too busy for prayers of gratitude
and words of affection, too busy to notice the many
ways He blesses my life, concentrating too hard
on the difficulties in my way to see past them
to the beauty and the glories of God

the beauties and the glories of God
for which I must slow down and accept deep
within my heart
and then respond with
praise as a sacrifice
and thereby thank Him and
woo Him in return...

~birdsong in the early morning hours
~a crisp blue winter sky
~the end of basketball season
~his lips brushed against my forehead
~family playing and working out together at the YMCA
~money worries to keep me on my toes
~Nat King Cole on the stereo
~lit candles flickering on the kitchen table
~preparing chicken dinner for my family
~feeling a rush of love, peace and joy for the life I have been blessed with and for my family and friends
~offering a shoulder to cry on for a loved one in distress
~listening to the tragic story of a family torn apart by drug abuse and knowing that by listening with love, I am able to lessen the suffering just a little bit
~the laughter of babies
~lunchtime rosary walks in weather fair or foul
~daughter's arms wrapped around my neck at the end of a long day
~daily Mass, especially when Fr.Dennis is hoarse and his voice is barely audible causing me to appreciate his presence all the more
~ribbons in books of prayer
~the clang of church bells
~house vibrating with the passing trains
~Sr. Rita offering her tutoring services for a struggling reader
~near-constant headaches reminding me of His crown of thorns
~arthritic hands working to make rosaries by the thousands each year for free distribution to anyone who will use them
~His arms stretched out in love on the cross
~releasing my emotions in the written word in this space