Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Panhandler

He stands there on the busy downtown street corner directly in front of the Gothic church. He's always crowned with a cowboy hat. In the winter wind I quickly pass by with my head down and my face buried in my scarf. He calls out asking for money.
I reach deep into my coat pocket and pull out my rosary beads. "This is all I have" I say. "That's all you need" he replies with a smile.

Every day he stands there on the busy downtown street corner directly in front of the Gothic church always crowned with a cowboy hat. He smiles and says hello as I quickly pass by on my lunchtime walk. And others too, rush past, always in a hurry, but he just stands there greeting everyone, putting a smile into the lives of those who come his way.

Into the warm summer months he remains there, smiling and greeting passersby. I quickly run to catch the walk sign before it changes so I won't have to stand on the corner waiting. He calls hello and I mumble a quick greeting in reply. The light changes and as I walk away I hear "Pray for me?"

Did he remember that I am the one with the rosary in my pocket? I stop and turn in the middle of the intersection,smile, and say "I will!"

God of the lost and the lonely, those forsaken on the sidewalks of life, be with all who are eager to share a smile but have little else to give. Just as a cowboy hat offers shelter from the sun, shelter their hearts from fear, anxiety and hatred. Give to them whatever it is they most need at the moment whether it be a hot lunch, bus fare, or peace in their hearts. God of the lost and the lonely, thank you those who share smiles and friendly greetings and who ask for our prayers, for through them we are all a little less lost and lonely ourselves. Amen.

Through His Hands

"I have carved you on the palm of my hand." Isaiah 49:16








During the Sacrament of Marriage, a ring is exchanged between bride and groom. It is significant that the wedding ring is always placed on the third finger of the left hand as it is believed that the vein in this finger leads directly to the heart.

Taking that image of a wedding ring, compare it to the hands of Christ nailed to the cross. Those wounds are so deep that even after His resurrection they remain eternally in His hands. Consider that each one of us is the bride of Christ and His wounds are the ring that signifies His eternal love for us; the wounds that lead directly to His Most Sacred Heart. It is here that He holds us; inside the wound in the palm of His hand where we will forever remain bound to His Heart. We are never to be forsaken, but forever to be loved.

You are carved into those wounded hands of love, carved with a nail piercing the flesh, and drawn deeply into His Heart where His love will forever flow for you alone, His most beloved bride.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pay It Forward-Supporting the Priesthood

Holly at A Life Size Catholic has started a new MEME called Pay it Forward. The thought behind it is that we share wonderful links and information that we find on the internet in an effort to spread good news. It's a great idea!



It was about a month ago when the National Catholic Register posted a story about a group of mother's of priests in Minnesota who wanted to support one another, feeling that with their son's call to the priesthood, they were also called to a new role in their faith. As the mother of a son who is discerning a call to the priesthood, I loved this story and immediately shared it with some local friends whose sons are also in the process of discerning the priesthood or who are already in the seminary. I would love to see this initiative here in Milwaukee, hopefully not only for mothers of priests but for mothers of seminarians and those discerning a call to the priesthood as well. What a wonderful source of friendship this could be for so many women as they lovingly support their sons in the company of others who find themselves in the same life situation!

You can read the story here: Mothers of Priests Group Supports Sons' Vocations

Sometimes I wish I could just quit my job and be a full-time volunteer for efforts like this because it seems so wonderful and my desire to do more for the church is deep, but I'm sure that many of you can relate to the woes of a busy mother of five, working 30 hours a week, volunteering at my parish and at several other organizations-it's impossible to keep taking on more without leaving something behind. How to squeeze it all in is beyond me. One thing for which I am grateful, though, is the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests, which, once I got it set up for Milwaukee, involves very little work on my part but reaps great rewards of prayer for so many priests.

If you feel that you would be called to establish a Mothers of Priests Group or the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests in your diocese, please visit one of the above links to learn more! Thanks Holly for this opportunity to PAY IT FORWARD! Visit Holly's blog for the *rules*!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Friendship That Will Never Die

"What is there to life but this close, most intimate friendship with Jesus Christ whom I shall possess for all eternity. All other human loves flicker and go out along the human highway of life, but His love will endure forever. Every tombstone tells us the same story as cemetery dust waves requiem over the purest, most noble friendships here on earth. Only His love remains beneath the passing shadows."
~Sparks from His Heart, Fr. Frank Parrish, SJ
















The Feast of the Visitation is a perfect image of the celebration of friendship. Here two great and holy women have incredible and amazing news to share. Mary and Elizabeth rush to each others' sides and their human love for one another escapes from their hearts and becomes a united prayer of love and gratitude to God. They recognize that the holiness, the goodness, and the joy of their friendship comes from God alone and that without His love, the miracle of the beginnings of new life welling up within their bodies could not occur.

Together, Mary and Elizabeth spend time talking, working, and praying. The physical presence of the other brings great comfort to these women who are both on the verge of a tremendous life change, something beyond their wildest imaginings. Life seems inexplicably beautiful.

At the same time, they know that this moment of close bonding will end and the time will come for them to part. Soon, Mary will have to return to her own home and they will have to carry on with their life's work and bring the great miracle of new life to fruition without the help of their close friend by their side. Yet deep inside, hidden deep within their wombs, buried inside of their hearts, lives a love greater than any human friendship; the friendship of God in the person of Jesus-physically within Mary and spiritually within Elizabeth.

We, too, have a share in this friendship, a deep and eternal bond with Jesus Christ. Our human friendships, lovely though they may be, are truly only temporary and one day with the passing from this life, those friendships will physically end. But, through Jesus, the holy unifier, we can carry our love for others into eternity. Each time we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we can take our friends both living and deceased to the altar with us through the love in our hearts, and because of our friendship with Jesus, we can be mystically united with all of our friends, whether or not they are physically present to us.

Just as the infant leapt within the swollen womb of Elizabeth at the greeting of Mary with the knowledge that she carried the Messiah and Savior of all within her very body, our souls too, leap with joy for the great love of our Blessed Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves us beyond human friendship both now and for all eternity. How blessed we are to have a spiritual friendship with Jesus that becomes physical every time we attend Mass and receive His Body and Blood into our very flesh.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Love in a Pedicure























In the cool of a spring evening, I'm wiped out tired, last wisps of breath coming heavy from my lungs. I lean back in the front porch rocker, book in my hands, glass of wine by my side and settle in for comfort. Mary comes with her basket of nail polish-"Tonight, Mama, I'm going to paint your toenails. Choose a color." And there is no choice in the painting. Mary says it and Mary will do it. My toes are fearsome ugly,distorted and deformed and I don't like them painted, I prefer them hidden inside my shoes. But I see she won't back down until she has her way with me so I choose the brightest blue in her basket and offer my foot to her hand.

She begins with the lotion, working it deep into my heels and ankles, massaging with a gentle purpose. Ooh, this she could keep doing forever, my tired feet aching from too much time in high heels now feeling astonishingly soothed and rejuvenated.

And I look into my beautiful daughter's face...and I see Him. Here He is, bent down over Peter's dusty and tired feet, washing them clean, giving him love.

I am left with the shock of bright blue toenails that surprise me every time I remove my socks. It's a reminder that I am loved. Unworthy though I am, He serves me, longs to soothe me-body and soul, and He calls me to imitate His service by soothing others in their pain, exhaustion, discomfort. Like my daughter painting my nails, I too, will give myself to others, will follow His example, will love with all that is within me. No matter how simple and small the effort may be, I will give myself away.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Three-fold Answer: Joy, Hope and Love by Bishop-elect Donald J. Hying

A reflection on the readings for Sunday, May 29th, 2011: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20, 1 Pt 3:15-18, Jn 14:15-21

What great secret explains the amazing growth of the early Church against very daunting odds? Why did this new way of life spread so widely and rapidly, despite persecution, hardship and minimal resources? How did the first Christians back up their proclamation of Jesus as Lord with a transformed life of authenticity? A three-fold answer appears in this Sunday’s Scriptures: joy, hope and love.
















The first reading speaks of the great joy in Samaria as the people experience the healing power of Christ, mediated through the ministry of Philip. The author seems to use the word “joy” on purpose here as the lingering effect of an encounter with the Lord. Pleasure can satisfy our senses for awhile; happiness radiates an existential fulfillment in embracing the purpose of life. Joy pulls us beyond this world into the realm of the Holy Spirit. When we know the unconditional love of God to the depth of our being, when we encounter the gracious mercy of Jesus in the aftermath of serious sin, when the Lord is so real in the sacraments that we are surprised, we know joy. To pursue joy as an end in itself is ultimately fruitless because the focus is still on self-fulfillment. Joy seems to come, rather, as the by-product of a life offered up and given away in radical imitation of Christ’s oblation of self in the Paschal Mystery.

In the second reading, Peter exhorts his listeners to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” Apparently, then as now, hope can perplex, challenge and disturb. In the face of harsh suffering, unrelenting illness or a sudden death, a superficial optimism quickly crumbles. Hope is made of sturdier stuff because its very foundation is the power and love of the Lord breaking into the swirl of human events. When life forces us to face the mystery of evil or the weight of human weakness, hope can seem foolish, na├»ve or even insensitive in the midst of so much darkness and pain. But, hope is all the Church has ever had. We dare to believe our faith to be true, Jesus’ promises to be real and the kingdom of heaven our final home. No one can prove any of these things, but hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ allows a Christian to look death in the face and sing, because God will win out in the end.

The Gospel of John this Sunday speaks of love as an “abiding,” the Son in the Father, we believers in the Son and the Son in us. In love, we come to share in the very life of God who has taken up his dwelling in the depths of our being. Thus, the Christian religion is first and foremost a love relationship, not a moral code or a belief system. How we act and what we believe flow from who we have become in this new divine life.

In his treatise on the Trinity, St. Hilary explains this divine indwelling. “Jesus is in the Father by reason of his divine nature, we are in him by reason of his human birth, and he is in us through the mystery of the sacraments.” When we rest in this Trinitarian Life, who is both within us and beyond us, we understand the true nature of Love, the Love that empties itself out for our conversion and salvation.

With the vivid memories of Jesus’ earthly ministry in their minds, the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection in their hearts and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the apostles went forth with a fresh boldness to evangelize the world. So convicted were they of the transforming nature of the Gospel message that they literally dedicated the rest of their lives to proclaiming Jesus to everyone they encountered. The truth of their words was confirmed by the joy, hope and love that radiated from their communal life and their individual witness.

We may be tempted to think that things are different now, that the Church is 2000 years old and burdened with the weight of history, no longer fresh and new. But what are two millennia in the eyes of God? Wasn’t it just last week that Mary Magdalene ran down the path to breathlessly tell the astonished apostles that the tomb was empty? Wasn’t it just the day before yesterday that the apostles burst forth from the Upper Room on Pentecost Day to speak of a world suddenly redeemed and different? Recently a colleague was commenting on the blessings and challenges of ministry in the Church today. She offered, “What is the point of doing any of this if we are not radiating joy, hope and love as we do it?” I could not agree more!

1. What robs you of joy and hope? How can you change that?
2. If we truly believe the Trinity dwells within us, what does that conviction demand of us?
3. Think of a person whose joy and hope has bettered your life. How can you pass on the gift?

(originally published in the May 26th, 2011 Milwaukee Catholic Herald)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Seven Quick Takes-Ode to the Bishop Edition

For those of you who have read this blog with any regularity, you will know that I have been greatly influenced by Milwaukee's new Bishop-elect Fr. Don Hying and many of my posts have been peppered with "Fr. Don did this" or "Fr. Don said that."

For the past three years I have spent countless hours sitting with him in his office, pouring out my troubles and spiritual difficulties and that poor man would kindly listen and support me through it all, often times fighting to keep his eyes open not because I am so incredibly boring (which I am) but because he works so tremendously hard and is frequently exhausted. Sometimes a lakeside walk was the perfect antidote to tiresome office visits. We've enjoyed many walks along the beautiful Milwaukee lakefront directly across from the Seminary both in pleasant and blustery weather.

Recognizing that I am more comfortable expressing myself in the written word than in face-to-face discussions, he made me promise to write to him whenever I had the need to just "get something out" and I've often thought that he must have been sorry that he did that as my emails to him were more than frequent, yet he never complained and took the time to answer many of them, always in the same loving, supportive and encouraging manner. When I would apologize for being excessive in the amount of emails I would send to him, he would thank me for being excessive.

He is a good, kind, honest, decent and holy man, a perfect choice for Bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.












So, today, I join in Conversion Diary's Seven Quick Takes, and share seven wonderful things about Bishop-elect Donald J. Hying.

1. His humility is exemplary as his words about his appointment show:

“This episcopal appointment is less about the personality of the one chosen, as it is about the office,” Bishop-elect Hying said. “Throughout the history of the Church and until the end of time, the Lord chooses earthen vessels, unworthy instruments, to serve him and mediate the mystery of his salvation and mercy. As the saying goes, "God does not always call the most qualified, but he qualifies those he has called.‟ I am both deeply humbled and honored to be appointed by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.” Bishop-elect Donald Hying

2. Many people find him to be a beautiful soul as these words from a commenter on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online story about Fr. Don display:

"Not being a Catholic, but coming into contact with Fr. Don about six years ago, a serendipitous moment occurred. Both my wife and I were struck with someone who displayed a sensitive, caring, and benevolent persona that went far beyond anything called religion. Fr. Don's spirit is something that resembles fine poetry, a wonderful wine's bouquet, coupled with the most beautiful prose ever written. I do believe the Catholic church got it right this time." comment by: dreduardoa

3. He's hard-working and loving:

When my family and I had invited Fr. Don to our house for the first time a few years ago, we enjoyed dinner together and then he rolled up his sleeves and said, "Now, I'm going to wash the dishes!" And he did, despite our protests! I wrote about it in this post-Kenotic Love. In talking to others about how floored I was that he would wash the dishes at my house, I've learned that for Fr. Don, this is a common practice while visiting for dinner, and if you don't let him wash the dishes, then he'll offer to mow your lawn!

My daughter and I took our first-ever mother/daughter weekend retreat last April, and Fr. Don joined us at our hermitage for a game of scrabble (he easily won-of course, I blame the letters-what can you do with all vowels?) a visit to the nearby convent adoration chapel and a walk to the seminary grotto where the three of us worked to clean up winter storm damage to the trees. Who else could combine play, prayer and work and create a beautiful memory all at the same time?

4. He's deeply prayerful:

I was moved beyond words when I witnessed a scene that I will cherish all my life. My daughter and I were visiting Seminary Woods a few years ago and walked to the grotto to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Suddenly, Mary gasped and began running towards the grotto. Who do you think we found there in solitary prayer? You can read about it here: Grotto

5. He's a generous and fabulous host:

This last Easter, Fr. Don invited my family and I to join him for Mass at the breathtaking St. Joseph's Chapel inside the School Sisters of St. Francis Convent, followed by breakfast at his Seminary suite. Not many people would take on the task of serving a family of seven following Mass, but for Fr. Don, it was an exciting and wonderful adventure. Breakfast was delicious and his home is gorgeous! He even surprised Mary and I with gifts of roses! My family and I will treasure the memory of that very special Easter forever.

6. He's innovative:

As Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Fr. Don initiated Seminary Sunday where he travels throughout the Archdiocese preaching at weekend Masses in a successful effort to promote the Seminary. And just this last April for the Seminary's Open House, he took a group of seminarians to the bars on Water Street in downtown Milwaukee to invite people to attend the Open House. It was clearly successful as the Seminary was packed for the open house. His most recent innovation, together with Lydia LoCoco, was creating the de Chantal Society at the seminary, in an effort to garner the support of the women of the Archdiocese and to offer them a quiet place of prayer in return.

7. He says "yes" to everything:

Everyone knows that an effective Seminary Rector has very little time to himself. Fr. Don gives his time away so generously, relentlessly exhausting himself in service of the Lord and the people of the Church. Not only has he been wonderful about spending time with me for spiritual direction and reading my emails, but he does the same for many other people. He works as the Spiritual Director for Roses for Our Lady, and invited me to be the new president this year, he offers spiritual direction for the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, he has preached at countless Consecration of St. Louis de Montfort Conferences, and travels extensively on religious pilgrimages, most recently taking the entire Seminary with him to the Holy Land.

When I asked him to share his gospel reflections and stories on this blog, he said yes to that as well. Matt at Badger Catholic has kindly put a link on his blog that contains all of the stories either about or written by Fr. Don. If you'd like to find them all in one convenient spot, this would be the place.

Milwaukee is blessed beyond belief with Fr. Don Hying taking on the role of Bishop. I am blessed beyond belief with the friendship of a holy soul who easily leads many people to follow in his footsteps to holiness.

Last weekend at Fr. Kevin McManaman's First Mass of Thanksgiving following ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Nathan Reeseman preached a fabulous homily. What stood out to me were the following words to Fr. Kevin:

"People just want to love their priest, and they want their priest to love them in return."

Fr. Don understands this very well. He is deeply loved by countless people and he makes it clear that he loves us in return.

Congratulations Bishop-elect Hying!!!! God be with you in all that you do!

(picture source: St. Francis de Sales Seminary facebook page)

A New Bishop Gives Us Hope

While I've been writing about Fr. Don's haircut here on this blog, Pope Benedict XVI has been busy making Fr. Don the new Auxiliary Bishop for Milwaukee! Just goes to show how small and little my life concerns are! When I read the following announcement from Archbishop Listecki I immediately began to shake and tremble. I just can't imagine how Fr. Don must be feeling! I am overjoyed and extremely proud of my dear friend, the new Bishop Hying, regular contributor to Imprisoned in my Bones (I hope that will continue!). I ask you to please keep him in your prayers, now more than ever.



Dear Friends in Christ,

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Today the entire Church in southeastern Wisconsin celebrates the news that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed one of our own archdiocesan priests, Donald Joseph Hying, as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Many of you already know Father Hying as brother-priest, pastor, missionary, seminary rector, and friend, and now we will know him as bishop. What a great compliment to the priests of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that one of our brothers is now bishop-elect. Our Holy Father has gifted us with a true servant-leader as our new auxiliary bishop.

More information about Bishop-elect Hying and his appointment can be found on the archdiocesan website. Please join me in prayers of thanksgiving for this appointment. Through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, and Saint John the Evangelist, our patron, we ask God’s blessing on Bishop-elect Hying’s ministry. In a special way during this time of transition, we ask the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in southeastern Wisconsin.

In His Name,

Archbishop Jerome Listecki

Monday, May 23, 2011

A New Priest Gives Us Hope

"To the Priestly Heart of Christ I commend all, living and dead, who by their prayers and deeds have helped me to the Altar of God." Fr. Christopher L. Klusman


My family and I have been so blessed to have known Fr. Christopher Klusman for the past six years since he first began his journey at the Seminary of St. Francis de Sales. We met Christopher, a fellow member at our parish, St. Matthias, when Paul and I were teaching Sunday Morning Christian Formation classes. Christopher volunteered as a Catechist as well, teaching prayers and songs in sign language to the students. How I wish I could remember more of what he taught, but I do remember the signs for "alleluia" "Lord, hear our prayer" and "Jesus." The sign for Jesus is especially poignant-it is simply a touching of the palm of each hand where the nails pierced our Lord's skin. Sign language is such a beautiful and dramatic way of speaking and while watching Fr. Christopher sign his first Mass this past Sunday, I was deeply moved by the powerful actions spoken with his hands during the prayers of consecration.

I think that the most important lesson that I learned on this past Ordination weekend where five men were ordained to the diocesan priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was this: if you really want to know someone, you have to meet their mother. It's true for Jesus, isn't it? We come to know him more closely by first knowing and loving His mother. This weekend I had the great honor of meeting Elaine Klusman, Fr. Christopher's mother, and it was through that blessed meeting that I saw Fr. Christopher for who he really is; a shining reflection of this beautiful, humble and holy woman.

I arrived at the Cathedral very early for the Ordination Mass as I had learned in past years that without reserving your seat early, you would be standing for the entire 2 hour long Mass and the view of the most sacred occasion would be greatly obstructed. As I was waiting for my family to join me, she quietly entered the Cathedral. I was sitting across from the Deaf community and I could see some of the women who had gathered there pointing and mouthing, "That's his mother!" I reached out my hand to introduce myself and together with my two friends who were sitting behind me, we enjoyed a lovely conversation with Elaine Klusman. With tears in her eyes, she told us that she was beside herself with nerves and she was sure that she would still be crying throughout the month of June. Later, after my daughter had arrived at the Cathedral, we spotted Deacon Christopher and had a chance to say hello and to capture one of his precious hugs. He told us that as he was driving to the Cathedral with his mother they were both in tears. And truly, emotions are at an all-time high for everyone who receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders and for all of the friends and family gathered to celebrate the momentous occasion. There were many tears shed throughout the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist during the Mass of Ordination.

The following day after his Ordination, my family and I joyously attended Fr. Christopher's celebratory breakfast where he had invited 350 people to rejoice with him. For someone who is Deaf and uses his hands to communicate, I often wonder how Fr. Christopher can ever get a word in edgewise-his arms are always held out wide to embrace everyone he sees; he is forever offering his embrace as a safe and loving place for others to take refuge from the trials of life and to know his arms as a place of safety and love. As we arrived at the hall where the breakfast was held, we noticed that not one of the 350 people who arrived left the presence of Fr. Christopher without first being held in his warm and gentle embrace.

Fr. Christopher made an announcement about the gifts that he and his parents shared with each other. He said, "During the Ordination Mass, Archbishop Listecki anointed my hands with Chrism and then I wiped them on a towel. I want to give that towel to my mother. Also, last winter, Fr. Don Hying took all of the seminarians to the Holy Land. While I was there, I purchased some blessed oil and some holy water from the River Jordan. I'm going to use them to anoint my father who has been very ill." The significance of a new priest giving the towel, or purificator, with which he wipes the Chrism from his hands and gives it to his mother is deeply touching. This towel is kept by the mother of the priest and when she dies, she is buried with it in her hand as a reminder of the special honor that one of her sons is a priest, and tradition holds that she presents it to the Lord at her judgement, and with this tangible symbol in her hand, the Lord looks favorably upon her.

Fr. Christopher also shared the story of the gift that his parents gave to him. It seems that he had been shopping for an Advent Chasuble and was particularly drawn to one with a mother pelican feeding her child. The pelican is a symbol for Christ, since she feeds her children with her own flesh from close to her heart, just as Jesus feeds his children of faith with His very flesh and blood. When Fr. Christopher went to the store to purchase the chasuble, he was told that it had been sold and they were sorry but the store was now closed. At the time he had no idea that it was his own parents who had purchased that chasuble which he admired as a gift for him!

On the Monday before Ordination, I had paid a visit to the Seminary to spend some time with my friend, Fr. Don. As we returned from a walk, Deacon Christopher was in the seminary lobby visiting with the receptionist. He was talking about the vestments he had just purchased for his first Mass. The receptionist had a sneak peek as he walked past her with the vestments in a clear bag, but he told Fr. Don and I that we would have to wait until Sunday to see them; he wanted it to be a surprise. And on Sunday, for his first Mass, Fr. Christopher was absolutely radiant in his white vestments with a host and the symbol for the name of Christ, IHS, embroidered in gold on the front.

During his homily on behalf of his friend, Fr. Carmello Guiffre, who is also profoundly Deaf, spoke eloquently and brought tears to my eyes many times. He addressed Fr. Christopher's parents and told them: "As you watched your son enter the Cathedral and take his place beside you at the Ordination Mass, you suddenly realized what you had done. You bound your son to the cross." And he prayed: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for Elaine and Elmer and the family, for despite the difficulties in the priesthood, in the church and in the world today, their gift of their son Christopher is a sign of hope. A new priest gives us hope. We believe in hope."

This past weekend at the Ordination Mass, at the receptions of celebration and at the first Masses of the newly ordained, I couldn't help but beam with pride. I was proud for my parish, for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and for all of the priests who serve us, and especially for the five priests who had been ordained. But in a very special way, I was proud of Fr. Christopher and his family and the entire Deaf community. I will continue to beam with pride and love for Fr. Christopher Klusman, Fr. Kevin McManaman, Fr. Javier Guativa, Fr. Hugo Londono and Fr. Kevin Barnekow long into the future because of the wondrous gift of hope that a new priest brings to our world.

Otto the Barber






















My friend Fr. Don is sporting a snazzy new hair cut and the story he tells is that he visited an old-fashioned barber shop in Indiana. It seems that the barber took a full thirty minutes to cut his hair using a razor and then only charged him $5.00. It's so uplifting to hear that places like this still exist in this day and age of hurry up and pay a lot. Fr. Don's story reminded me of a similar hair-cutting experience that my son John and I had a few years ago...

Otto the Barber

My mom's greatest wish in life was that one of her six daughters would become a beautician so that she would be guaranteed beautiful hairstyles for the rest of her life. Alas, it's rare that our hopes and dreams are achieved through our children and my mother did not receive her wish, although all six of us did our best at styling mom's hair. I have fond memories of giving her many permanent waves and spending Saturday nights rolling her hair into pin-curls with dippity-do and bobby pins.

I suppose all that practice was good preparation for motherhood, if not for a career in hair styling. From the time my boys were babies I cut their hair myself to save money on barber shop visits. I never did a very good job and when they were little, it was a dreaded ritual for my sons. When my oldest son was very small, I set up the high chair in the back yard and set to work trimming his bangs. As soon as I stepped away for a moment, John bolted out of the high chair and ran around the house to escape the hated haircut. George, our balding next door neighbor was outside watching and he laughed and called out to John, "Run, John! Run fast! You don't want to look like me, do you?"

As the children grew they began to accept their home-style haircuts, but every now and then, for a treat, I'd take them to get their hair professionally done.

It was early one summer and John was out of school before the rest of his siblings, so I took him for a visit to Otto the Barber of whom I'd heard good things. The plain brick building bore a simple sign that read "Haircuts." As we entered the shop, we saw an older man sitting in the chair, receiving the final expert snips to finish off his haircut. When he walked out the door, Otto turned to John and I. He was tall, slim and very handsome. His silver hair was neatly cut.

"I don't style hair," he said with a heavy German accent, "I only cut it." We assured him that we were only looking for a basic, clean haircut.

John settled into the chair and Otto slipped the cape around his shoulders and began trimming his hair with an electric clippers. After Otto made a few comments about how he wished he were still in school so that he could have the summers off, the shop fell silent except for the hum of the clippers.

I contemplated the scene in the shop with amusement. The room was old and dirty, with big clumps of gray hair all over the floor, indicating that most of the customers were older men. The two chairs, covered in duct tape, had obviously seen better days. The wall behind them was covered with black and white hairstyle photos that looked like they were from the 1970's. The magazine racks were filled with National Geographic magazines dating back to 1968! I felt as though I had stepped back in time! The shop bore a faint smell that reminded me of a nursing home. It was certainly a man's shop without any sign of a feminine touch.

A few more snips and clips and John was looking neat and presentable. Otto asked where John usually gets his hair cut and I told him that I always cut his hair myself and confessed that I wasn't very good at it. He disagreed with my self-critique and said, "I didn't see any problems with his hair. What are you, a beautician or a barber?" "Neither," I replied, "just a mom." "Well, you're very good," he said, "I'd hire you!" And had he done that, he would have been out of business in no time!

I am so grateful that in this modern world, there are still some places where old-fashioned service and hospitality are more important than being the biggest and the best. How wonderful that little shops like that of Otto the Barber still exist today!

The Puzzle of Suffering-A Guest Post by Vicki Thorn

My friend Danette recently called me to tell me about her cousin who inexplicably lost her first baby two weeks before she was due to be born. I just cannot fathom the anguish of that type of suffering and feel at a loss as do many people when confronted with the deep suffering of others, and all I can do is pray. Won't you please join me in praying for baby Madison and her family?

My friend, Vicki Thorn, has recently written these healing and helpful words at Headline Bistro's Website and the story was carried on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Website where I found it. I am so grateful to Vicki for her words of wisdom and for her generosity in sharing them. Vicki is the Founder of the National Office for Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing and Project Rachel.

The Puzzle of Suffering

Recently I was asked to speak about the meaning of human suffering. As life happens, I had to leave the conference right after my talk to attend the funeral of my friends’ 25-year-old son, Tim, who had been found comatose on Easter Sunday and died the next day, after becoming an organ donor and saving five lives. Millions of unanswered questions plague us at times like this, and the church was filled to overflowing – more than 700 people gathered together to grieve.

Isn’t it interesting that suffering is the one experience we would all rather pass on? It struck me that, at the same time, suffering is also a uniquely human experience. An animal will feel pain, but it will not experience the mental anguish that attends human suffering in its many forms, whether physical, psychological or spiritual. Even Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.”

We read in the writings of the saints that suffering is ever present. Blessed John Paul II was shaped by suffering, when as a boy he lost his mother, his brother, and then his father. As a young man he experienced the sufferings of the Polish people. As Holy Father, he survived the assassin’s bullet and lived with physical challenges for many years; in old age, he showed us all how to suffer as Parkinson’s disease assaulted his being.

At the time of his conversion, Ignatius of Loyola was recovering from a wounded leg and, in his boredom, had only the Bible and the lives of the saints to read. Mother Theresa suffered the Dark Night of the Soul, as did John of the Cross. St. Margaret Mary and Padre Pio, as well as multitudes of other saintly people, experienced physical suffering of frail bodies and disease, and unseen mental and spiritual anguish from difficult marriages, loneliness and death.

In his encyclical on suffering, Salvifici Doloris, Blessed John Paul II wrote that “suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance … Its purpose is also to strengthen goodness both in man himself and in his relationships with others and especially with God” (Sec. 13).

How true it is that it is in suffering that God breaks through to us – or maybe we break through to God. When we no longer feel in control, we may turn to the Lord, and I think there is a possibility of real conversation in those moments.

In Scripture, the Lord says we should be like little children before him. As a mother of six, I’ve thought a lot about this command, and here’s what I’ve concluded: We often seem to think that means we are to be angelic and pious, with our hands folded and our eyes downcast. But I will tell you that does not describe my children when they were little! Rather, they were noisy and sometimes angry, stomping their feet and whining or complaining. Other times they were full of love and hugs.

I think that is the invitation from the Lord – to be authentic human beings with all our feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly. God invites us into relationship with him, and it is when things are not so good that we are more willing to speak what is in our hearts. We often complain about not feeling his presence, but in reality we keep the door of our heart closed. We need to give God permission to heal us or help us – but our heart must be opened from the inside.

It is also the case that the suffering of others is an invitation for us to reach out.

“[T]he Good Samaritan of Christ’s parable does not stop at sympathy and compassion alone,” Blessed John Paul II explained in Salvifici Doloris:

They become for him an incentive to actions aimed at bringing help to the injured man. In a word, then, a Good Samaritan is one who brings help in suffering, whatever its nature may be. Help, which is, as far as possible, effective. He puts his whole heart into it, nor does he spare materials means. Here we touch upon one of the key-points of all Christian anthropology. Man cannot “fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” A Good Samaritan is the person capable of exactly such a gift of self … (Section 28)

The mystery of suffering is that it can become our treasure – that it calls us to become people of hope. It changes our life, dispels our self-satisfaction, puts us in touch with our frail humanity and can reconfigure us more closely to the suffering Lord. It calls us to understanding of our suffering brothers and sisters as it challenges us to become the Good Samaritan. It is in our response that the glory of God’s love and mercy is made manifest to the world!

Rest in peace, Tim! Our loss of you brought us together to journey in our suffering.

It is Full Merry in Heaven!






















I've recently read The Book of Margery Kempe. Margery was a contemporary of Blessed Julian of Norwich and her book is the story of "a creature" as she calls herself, and her experiences of God's presence in her life and her many pilgrimages throughout Europe. Margery was blessed with the gift of tears in a very dramatic way. It seems that she was not silent when she'd cry, but instead was given to loud sobbing during Mass, much to the chagrin of others who happened to be in church with her at the same time, including the priests who would be saying Mass. My favorite line in the book came when Margery had a vision where she clearly heard the music in heaven and she told her husband, "It is full merry in heaven!"

This morning, while still coming down from an "ordination-induced high" (I promise-I will write more about it-I have much to say!)I spent a few too many extra minutes reading facebook posts and blog posts about the wonderful weekend just past and left myself with far too few minutes to get myself and my two youngest to church on time. We quickly drove to Mass and arrived during the entrance hymn. Since I am the Monday morning lector, Jack and Mary and I took our place in the front pew and I tried to catch my breath for the first reading.

Standing at the ambo today was more delightful than ever because I was remembering the beautiful event that occured at this very church just the day before, the blessed first Mass of the newly ordained Fr. Christopher Klusman. I also recalled the words of my dear daily Mass friend, Mrs. Bauer, who sat with my family and I during yesterday's Mass and whispered to me, "I feel as if I'm halfway to heaven!" So, I smiled my way through the entire breathless reading of the Acts of the Apostles and continued to smile as I returned to the pew and joined Jack and Mary for the remainder of the Mass.

During the consecration, Jack came down with a case of the hiccups and as we were singing the Memorial Acclamation, out came a loudly audible hiccup! I lost all control. My breathless smile turned to laughter. As I tried to contain the laughing and keep it silent, my body just shook and the tears ran down my face so that there was barely a difference between laughing and crying to those who had seen me! Now I've been known to shake quite a bit while at Mass due to side-effects from medication, but this was completely different! Despite my efforts to silence my surprise and out-of-place laughter at Jack's hiccups, I continued to shake and spurt until I received Jesus in the Eucharist.

I know that I have written here before about the beautiful custom of Risus Paschalis, the Easter laugh, and how it chases the devil away, so I hope and pray that my laughing in church today was a delight to God as well as to the others around me, especially to poor Fr. Dennis at the altar, and that I wasn't a hindrance to prayer like Margery Kempe was often told that she was. I guess that I could say that my experience at Mass today was a testimony to the words of Margery Kempe-it is full merry in heaven, since according to Mrs. Bauer, we are already halfway there!

Laudate Dominum!









Praise the Lord! How do you come down from the most amazing weekend ever and try to re-enter ordinary life? This past weekend the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was blessed to bring five new men into the diocesan priesthood with the ordinations of Fr. Christopher Klusman, Fr. Kevin McManaman, Fr. Javier Guativa, Fr. Kevin Barkekow and Fr. Hugo Londono.

I have so much to share about my perspective of the Mass of Ordination and the Masses of Thanksgiving which my family and I were blessed to attend, but I think I'm going to need a while to gather all of my thoughts. So in the meantime, won't you please visit my son John's blog? He's already written about this glorious weekend probably far better than my ability will allow.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Three Favorite Scripture Verses

Mary at The Beautiful Gate has tagged me in the lastest blog MEME. This time around the theme is "Three Favorite Scripture Verses." The rules are:

1.Write a post on your three favorite verses from the Bible and why you like them.
2. Link back to this post.
3. In your post tag three other bloggers to carry this theme forward, link to you and tag additional bloggers.

Tough one, Mary, very tough to stick to three-but here goes my best effort....

1. Really, my all time favorite verse is Psalm 34:5

"Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame."

I spent too many years ashamed of myself for my depression and my weakness and my sins and my imperfections. I wanted to be somebody else-anybody else-but the person God made me to be. Remembering to look to Him, and really seeing Him and His great love for me, just wipes all that shame away and the joyful radiance that overcomes me outshines the shamefaced blushing that I used to live with. Every time I hear this psalm, I have no choice but to smile!

2. Last year while at Mass one Sunday, my daughter Mary nudged me to let me know that the particular Gospel reading at that Mass was her favorite and her words inspired me to write this post about it. It just so happens that that very same Gospel was read at today's Ordination Mass (more about the ordinations to come in another post!) and Mary and I exchanged knowing smiles, remembering how meaningful that passage is to her. Although my daughter and I frequently disagree these days about many things such as music, television shows and how she wants to dress, we can agree that this scripture passage is wonderful, and now it's one of my favorites as well, after all, it's all about love and what's not to like about that!

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17

3. Something would be seriously amiss if I failed to list the quote from this blog title as one of my favorites!

"I say to myself, I will not mention His name, I will speak in His name no more. But then, it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones, I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it." Jeremiah 20:7-10

After two years of striving to release my inner Jeremiah here on this blog, I'm still at it. Will there ever come a day when that fire stops burning in my bones? I hope not! Please, Lord, keep burning within me and calling me to share your love and your words with others!


Thanks for the tag Mary! And now I tag the following bloggers:

Amanda Rose at Little Steps Along the Way

Colleen at Inadequate Disciple
Rebecca at A Solitary Bird
and a fourth--
Lindy at Little Flower's Crown of Roses
Link

Friday, May 20, 2011

Take Refuge in the Wounds-Fr. Don Hying

I'm a little late in posting Fr. Don Hying's reflection from the Second Sunday of Easter, but his words about the wounds of Christ and how we can still find them in ourselves and in others today are timelessly powerful. This reflection was originally published in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.
















Carravagio's artistic depiction of this Sunday's Gospel scene is very graphic in detail. The risen Jesus stands directly in front of an amazed Thomas while he calmly and gently guides the apostle's quaking finger directly into his chest wound. The Second Sunday of Easter always presents us with the same narrative-Thomas coming to faith by touching the wounds of the risen Christ.

These crucified wounds of Jesus stubbornly remain even after the glory of the Resurrection and the Gospel authors make a point of commenting on them. What do they mean for us, both spiritually and theologically? These gaping holes in the body of the Lord of Life remind us of the grittiness and realism of Jesus' Incarnation and crucifixion. God became an authentic human being in the person of Jesus. He worked, prayed, cried, sweated, got hungry, was tempted, knew fear, suffered torture and underwent a terrible death. In all of this, God completely identifies himself with our humanity.

In prayer, I often hear Jesus saying: Are you tired, angry, sad, fearful, joyful, grateful or grieving? I completely understand all of your emotions and experiences because I have felt all of those things, too. As we contemplate the wounds that life has inflicted on our spirits and hearts, we can take comfort in the deep wounds of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.

Placing his hand into the side of Jesus brings Thomas to faith and peace. The wounds of Jesus have become the source of our healing, comfort and strength. Humanity tore holes in the body of the Son of God and what spurted forth? Not hatred, vengeance, condemnation or violence. Only the water that represents the power of baptism and the blood that is the reality of the Eucharist.

Through the sacraments that flow from the death and resurrection of Christ, we are washed clean, nourished and sanctified in the grace, love and mercy of God. As the Exultet at the Easter Vigil proclaims, to redeem a slave, God gave away his Son. As believers, we can take refuge in the wounds of Christ, knowing that it is precisely in that hidden place of divine vulnerability that we will encounter forgiveness, mercy and understanding.

Since the church is the mystical Body of Christ and Jesus has united himself to every person, we can still discover and touch the wounds of Christ in the lives of the people around us. Every person who is lonely, sick, hungry, poor, sorrowing or dying is Jesus in his distressing disguise. Do we dare to leave our comfort zones and actively seek the wounded Christ in the byways and corners of this broken world?

To re-enact Carravagio's painting, we must let Jesus guide our fearful hands right into the sacred places of suffering and pain if we hope to come to faith in the risen One. This radical identification between the crucified torture of Christ and the myriad and horrible facets of human suffering is a fusion of love which the saints understood to the core of their soul.

Every spiritual hero we honor in the church loved the poor in a very incarnational way because they knew they were literally touching the wounded body of their Savior and Lord. Francis of Assisi with the lepers, Mother Teresa with the dying, Vincent de Paul with the poor and countless others lived this mystery out with a terrifying realism and a love without conditions.

On this Second Sunday of Easter we also commemorate Divine Mercy and witness the beatification of Pope John Paul II. All of these events, characters and memories find their meaning and force in the crucified yet risen Jesus Christ whose victory over death answers all of our questions about life and whose wounded vulnerability invites us to open our weakness to his strength.

Could it be that in the end, people actually forgive us for our strengths, but love us for our weaknesses? That our neediness and failures, embraced in faith, have the power to lead others to the very wounds of Christ?

Rise

I am so excited about tomorrow's ordinations to the Priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee! We will see five men lay down their lives in service to the Lord, what a tremendous blessing! I have to say that I am exceptionally proud of Christopher Klusman, a long-time friend and fellow parishioner at St. Matthias parish, who is one of the five ordinandi. Christopher's amazing story, which was featured in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, was picked up by Deacon Greg Kandra and posted at the Deacon's Bench. You can read his story here.

In honor of this holy and happy occasion, please enjoy a re-post of my story from last year's ordination.

Rise

He lay on the cold, marble floor, face buried in his arms, body covered by white alb, with only the back of his head and his black shoes exposed. While the Litany of the Saints Chant swirls throughout the Cathedral, he submits himself to God and His Church, and as the last echo of the chant fades away, he will rise to face the challenge of his submission.

Later in the Liturgy, he assumes a posture of kneeling, as one by one, his brother priests lay their hands upon his head, calling down the Holy Spirit to dwell within his soul, and forever change him. Each set of hands that presses upon him creates more room within him for the indwelling of the One who will assist him to rise to his new life in the Spirit.

As he is invested with a stole and chasuble, a visible sign that he is one who has “put on Christ”, it seems like a veil has shifted and his appearance takes on the look of one who will rise above the ordinary to that of an extra-ordinary leader, one who will care for others as a father, a mother, a sibling and a friend. It is clear to see that his call is being fulfilled and his face shines with the brilliant light of Christ.

Finally, kneeling once again, the Archbishop consecrates his open hands with the Chrism that will soak through his skin and become a permanent part of him. Leaving him with a kiss upon those holy hands, the Archbishop watches him rise to face the church full of witnesses, no longer simply a holy man, but now “a priest, forever”.

This day of Ordination is also a day of Ascension for him, when, like Christ being lifted to heaven in a cloud, he, too, is surrounded by a cloud of sweet and fragrant incense which rises in prayer. The new priest himself becomes a prayer that will rise to bring Christ to the world through his love, his faithfulness, his service and his own words of prayer.

The overwhelming message of this day is “get up, begin, and rise”. After many long years of preparation, it is time to magnify the presence of the Lord within himself and allow it to surge outwards to all of the faithful. From this day on, each time he elevates the host and chalice, he himself will ascend to a loftier place, the place of heaven on earth as he acts in persona Christi. And as the faithful look on, our very spirits rise to heaven with him as we flourish in prayers of adoration for our Redeemer and prayers of admiration and thanksgiving for the man who brings the True Presence of our Lord into our hearts and souls at each Mass.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Driver's Seat

"Pick up your feet got to move to the trick of the beat
There is no lead just take your place in the driver's seat"

~Sniff 'n the Tears

It's funny how memories come back like they were yesterday. My son failed his driver's test due to a pretty minor mistake, but the failure was painful for him just the same. Still, we can be sure that he will never fail to slow down and look both ways at an uncontrolled intersection for the remainder of his years behind the wheel, and the next time he takes the test, he will be better prepared.

Sharing the news of Justin's experience on his road test with some friends has brought back a flurry of memories from those who have also failed their first attempts at getting their driver's license, mine included.

Back in the early 80's when I was a teenager, our family car was a beat up old station wagon that had seen better days to be sure. Not only was it an embarrassment to drive, but I was certain that the examiner would take one look at it and fail the car before I ever got a chance to drive it! So, I had asked my brother if I could use his car for the test. Bob had a classic Plymouth Satellite in mint condition. He foolishly agreed to my request.

I had never been behind the wheel of Bob's car before the day of the test. It was raining that morning and the back window was fogged up, but his car didn't have rear-window defoggers. As I was backing out of the parking space to begin the test, I hit the car behind me! The examiner got out to check for damage, but finding none, told me to proceed with the test.

Knowing I had already failed, the tears began to flow. I cried throughout the entire test. Do you think that might have made the examiner a bit uncomfortable, or was he used to the tears of teenage girls?

As we made our way through the city streets of Manitowoc, we came to a four-way stop and just at that time, an ambulance with its siren blaring came from behind. Still fretting over my major mistake in the parking lot, I panicked about the rules of the road for emergency vehicles. I drove through the intersection and pulled over instead of staying put at the stop sign. So, had I not hit a car in the parking lot, I would have failed the test anyway. I'm just grateful that the ambulance wasn't there because of my parking lot accident! :)

Thinking back to that long-ago day, I have a new appreciation and gratitude for those who work at the Department of Motor Vehicles. They put up with a lot of immature and unprepared drivers, kids who are just desperate to reach that milestone and take their place in the driver's seat.

I imagine that God's role in our lives is a lot like that of the Road Test Examiner. God bravely sits right beside us on the journey of life, whether we are well prepared or not. He often has to take the hard stance and stifle our eager ambitions no matter how good our intentions might be, because He knows that our actions can alter so much more than our own puny lives, but that everything we do can have an affect on others as well. Sometimes He has to say "no" to our most ardent desires because He knows that the safety and well-being of others is at stake. Although our vision may be impaired by a foggy window, God clearly sees the way in which we are to go, and He will not allow us to advance without first assuring that we are well-prepared in our driver's seat so as to safely reach our ultimate destination, the glorious kingdom of heaven.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Eulogy







driving home under
a blue sky,
blue with angel wing clouds
and Funeral for a Friend
on the radio, remembering the day...

church filled with red and white roses
brought to every funeral by my Godfather
a reminder of His blood shed to make us pure

prayers and memories offered for a man who
couldn't remember anymore
final years spent in the childlike
oblivion of Alzheimer's disease

long-forgotten relatives
shyly work to carry on a
conversation, struggling
to remember one another

"Ah, you're a Reindl"
I'm told again and again
family of origin features
prominently on my face
but no one remembers which
one of the nine I am, exactly,
just a vaguely familiar
face in the crowd

kolaches on the dessert table
in honor of the now-deceased aunt
who always made them
the warm, loving and holy woman
widowed young with the passing of her husband
while child thirteen was still a babe

nearly 500 crammed into the church
for her funeral back then with
Mass lasting over three hours
containing many loving, tearful memories
and three priests all crying
for the loss of her life

I make kolaches, too-
will I be remembered with
hours of tears and stories
when my time comes to pass from this life?
Will three priests cry for me
when I'm gone?

"She must have been a Reindl-
now tell me which one."
and some will answer,
"You know, the baby of the family,
the one who made kolaches."

But what does it matter whether or not
his memories were stolen by a disease
or she is lovingly remembered by many
or I am only remembered by my place in the
family line and my baking skills?

for the Father in heaven
holds all of us together
in the palm of His hand
and He will never forget...
not one little cell in our body
goes unnoticed
not one hair on our head is
uncounted

I am known
I am known
and will always be
remembered
for who I am
and for what I've done...
to my Father in heaven
I am known

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gifts That Last

Over the course of my two-year blogging history, I have often taken part in "link-fests" such as Jennifer Fulwiler's Seven Quick Takes and Ann Voskamp's Mindful Mondays. I often struggle to find just the right words to say at just the right time so as to join in with the necessary number of quick takes or words of gratitude on the required days, so this post is a combination of grateful quick takes on my own terms...

A few days ago I had a surprise visit from my sweet friend Susi with a very special gift-a bottle of Sea Glass Wine! I had no idea that such a wonderful treat existed! And how lovely to receive a combination of three of my favorite things-wine, sea glass and friendship! Cheers, Susi! Naturally, the wine was delicious, but now it's gone. How grateful I am that friendship and sea glass are gifts that endure.

Last week there was panic and mayhem in the blogosphere when Blogger went down for nearly 24 hours and posts and comments disappeared. It made me appreciate what a gift it is to be able to write my thoughts, prayers, and dreams in this little space called Imprisoned in my Bones and know that anyone in the world can be blessed by them. Please, God, let others be blessed by them and never hurt by my words. The blogging fiasco intensified my gratitude to be able to read and pray over so many other words burning within the hearts of my fellow Christians and tapped out on the silence of a keyboard for the benefit of many. How wonderful it is that the internet can be a blessing to our souls, bringing about deep and meaningful friendships in this often cold and impersonal world.

One such friendship that quickly comes to mind is that of Mary at The Beautiful Gate. For the past two years Mary has been faithfully reading my words and commenting on them as well as faithfully writing her own words of faith and love on her blog, and it is Mary who is the recipient of my recent book give-away, The Invisible World by Anthony Destefano, as well as a small collection of sea glass. Thanks for everything Mary!

One of my favorite uncles has passed away a few days ago. God blessed Izzy (Isadore) with 90 years on this earth, and my uncle used those years to spread love and joy using his gift of humor. I am particularly blessed because my employer allows paid time off to attend the funeral of aunts and uncles. So, my son Justin, who will be taking his driver's exam this Wednesday, will be attending the funeral with me, and will drive the 80 miles to and from our destination. Please keep us in your prayers for a safe journey and please pray for Justin to pass his exam successfully! But most of all, please pray for the soul of my beloved Uncle Izzy.

I found these words on the quote board at the YMCA earlier this week and they have been moving my heart ever since..."Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." ~Mark Twain~
Don't they move your heart as well?

On this Good Shepherd Sunday and World Day of Prayer for Vocations, my heart is rejoicing over the upcoming ordination to the priesthood of five men for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee this coming Saturday, May 21st. So many hopes and prayers lie in the hands of these men, the hands that will be embedded with fragrant Chrism, the hands that will heal and soothe the souls of many, the hands that will hold the very Body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and feed him to a Church starving for His love, the hands that will now be holy hands. Please keep these brave and wonderful men in your prayers and click on their names to read their feature story in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald:

Christopher Klusman
Kevin McManaman
Kevin Barnekow
Javier Guativa
Hugo Londono

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Blue Rosary Joy






















Kneeling in silent prayer in my favorite pew in the back of church, eyes closed, I related my joy to God about how good it feels to be able to show my love for Him in so many little ways, ways that others might not ever notice, but ways in which I felt honored to be used by Him just the same. My prayer was distracted by a gentle thump in the pew in front of me. Opening my eyes, I saw a brown box and heard the voice of my friend, JD, saying, "Here's the first 100. I'll have 300-400 more for you by July. I don't want any thank you's. I just want you to distribute these." Inside the box were the most beautiful blue marbled glass bead rosaries I have ever seen, each with a miraculous medal centerpiece and an exquisite crucifix.

It's funny how God just carries us along in our day-to-day activities leading us to people and places without our knowing the reasons why, but God always knows and He always uses our words and actions for good. Two years ago I noticed an advertisement in our parish bulletin about someone who was looking for help making rosaries for the missions through an organization called Our Lady's Rosary Makers. I called the number in the ad thinking that maybe my sisters and I could make rosaries while we visited during our monthly rosary get-together.

JD answered the phone and he and I talked for over an hour. It turned out that my sisters and I weren't able to help with making the wire and bead rosaries, but during the course of our conversation, I asked JD if he attends daily Mass and he said that he hadn't been, but maybe now he would start. Sure enough, the next day, I had the opportunity to meet him face to face, and he has been faithfully attending daily Mass ever since. I'm sure that our Lord has been very pleased with his steady and true attendance at the highest form of prayer each day.

Last January when I became involved with Roses for Our Lady, I learned that our organization was in need of 300 blue rosaries to distribute during our rosary procession at Festa Italiana this July 17th. I asked JD if he could make rosaries for Roses for Our Lady as well as for the missions. It was hard to read his face. I thought that maybe I had pushed him over the edge and had asked for too much. He simply said that he would see what he could do. The very next day he gave me ten sample rosaries and the promise of 300 all made by his sister, brother and himself.

How wonderful it is that through a little phone call made several years ago, God has brought me this gift of a wonderful friend who is generous in his devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Lord. And it seems to me that through my prayer of gratitude, God blessed me abundantly by showering me with rosaries that others can use to show their gratitude through prayer as well. The joyful blessings continue to flow and all it takes is a little loving openness to the will of God. What wonders He can accomplish through us when we simply live our lives in the light of His love each day!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Courageous-Honor Begins at Home

"As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15


Last Sunday morning at church I was sharing information about the May Crowning with my fellow lector, Paul H. He told me that he remembered going to the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Marian Shrine back in the 1950's to pray for the conversion of Russia, but that today it's probably more appropriate to pray for the conversion of Hollywood. Last night my husband and I had the opportunity to see a movie made by a group that is actually working to convert Hollywood, or at least to put out movies with a positive Christian message and hopefully impact the world of Hollywood, proving that with the success of this movie, Americans are hungry for good, decent stories with positive messages that are free of the excessive sex, violence and profanity with which we are normally deluded when going to see a movie.

Through this blog, I was invited to a screening of the movie Courageous which will be in theaters on September 30th. Courageous is the lastest Kendrick Brothers film by Tristar and Sherwood pictures in association with Provident Films and Affirm Films, the same people who brought us Facing the Giants and Fireproof. The movie focuses on the importance of fatherhood through the eyes of men who work in law enforcement.

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

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

Would I recommend that you see this film upon its release on September 30th? Absolutely!!! It is without a doubt the best and most powerful movie that I have ever seen and just watching the trailer, I found that I once again had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes recalling the story that calls all fathers to be Courageous in their vocation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This Miraculous Life

I'm still floating on cloud nine from last Sunday's May Crowning. Would you like to see the pictures? If so, click on this link to visit Roses for Our Lady's slideshow-the most recent pictures are at the end (there are nearly 100 of them from this year!)

I'm also greatly enjoying my new Whirlpool High Efficiency washing machine and let me just tell you the reason why: I love my new washing machine because in the past three days I have not washed a single load of laundry! How can it be that this mother of five who usually washes at least two loads of laundry each day without fail is suddenly freed from this burdensome work? Is the laundry piling up, you may wonder? On the contrary! I love my new washing machine because my three teenage sons think it is so wonderful compared to our old clunker that they have voluntarily washed all of the laundry since they brought the new washer into our house! Life is good!

Now I better watch out for my soul because many years ago while I was still in high school I heard the pastor at my parish quote these words and he attributed them to Solanus Casey. Although I'm not sure the source is right, the words are wise nonetheless: "Never pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger. Never pray for tasks equal to your power pray for power to conquer your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you and your life will be a miracle."


Since I'm still feeling so elated, I thought this might be a good time to hold my FIRST EVER GIVE-AWAY!!! Now I wouldn't blame you one bit if you might be thinking, "Well, it's high time lady! You've only been writing this blog for two years and have yet to offer me anything but a bunch of words!"

You may remember last month when I reviewed The Invisible World by Anthony Destefano. Well, the author has kindly sent me another copy of his book so that I may share it with you, my wonderful friends! If you would like a chance to win your own copy of The Invisible World please leave a comment on this post or send me an email (you can find my email link in the "about me-view my profile" section on the sidebar.) I will then ask one of my hardworking sons to place all of the names inside the sparkling new drum of our Whirlpool High Efficiency Washing Machine of which they are so fond, and one blessed person whose name will be randomly drawn from the tub will receive The Invisible World in the mail. I will announce the winner and ask for your mailing address after the drawing which I will hold on Friday, May 13th, none other than the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Walk With Jesus and Mary




photo credit: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lucy Gutierrez, 7, rehearses the crowning of the Virgin Mary with the guidance of Kurt Keidl before the 31st annual May crowning and procession at the Archdiocesan Marian Shrine, Sunday, at the corner of N. 68th and W. Stevenson St. in Milwaukee, Wis. Following the crowning, about 300 people took part in a Eucharistic rosary procession around the neighborhood. The procession included members of the Knights of Columbus and two religious orders of nuns in traditional habits, as well as the faithful. JS Online

Thanks be to Jesus and Mary-everything went wonderfully according to plan for the 31st Annual Roses for Our Lady May Crowning! All my nerves and worries proved to be groundless, although someone once told me that if you are nervous before a big event, that just shows that you care, so if I had not been nervous, that would probably have been an ominous sign.

My friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, who so kindly gave of his time today to join us in honoring our Blessed Mother, has written a wonderful post about today's event so while I kick back with a celebratory ice cream sundae, I invite you to pay a visit to Offer It Up, Fr. Jim's Apostleship of Prayer blog to read more about our Walk with Jesus and Mary!

And Happy Mother's Day to all!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spring of the Soul

This particular post wavered back and forth in my heart today. I posted it early in the day, then withdrew it into a draft, re-posted it and then deleted it. I am a wishy-washy soul who has quite a bit of growing to do. But after a nap, praying the rosary and seeing my husband and sons arrive home with a new washing machine and then re-reading "Winter of the Spirit" which I had posted last January, I felt supported by the words from the former me and I realized that maybe these words written today in the midst of a panic attack, could really be a possible help to me in the future, and maybe, God-willing, they might be a help to you as well. And please, keep Roses for Our Lady in your prayers for a successful May Crowning on Mother's Day to honor Our Blessed Mother!

A Labor of Love


When my husband and I were leaving for the hospital to have our third son, I told my mother-in-law who had come to stay with our older sons that I didn't want to do this, didn't want to have to deal with the labor. Although I'd been through this twice before, I was still very fearful and would rather have skipped past all of the pain and get right to the baby in my arms. Of course, what woman doesn't feel that same way. I've never met a woman who said, "I can't wait to be in labor, I just love that intense pain!" My mother-in-law's response to my fear and worry was, "It's too late now! You've got to do this!" And of course, she was right, there's no backing out of a labor of love, and as it turns out, that son's delivery was the easiest of all my five children, there really was nothing to fear.

Your Holy Thing

It was Friday morning, two days before what my son whose delivery I feared calls "your holy thing" in other words Roses for Our Lady's annual May Crowning, when that long ago memory of my fear of labor returned and I uttered those same words I spoke back then..."I don't want to do this." And although working to help organize a May Crowning is nothing at all like having a baby, and can't even come remotely close, somehow the fear that I knew in that long-ago moment came back to me and panic set in good and deep.

The day began in an ordinary way, my husband and I both arising well before the children to get started on our day. When five-thirty arrived and Paul was dressed with a cup of coffee in his hand, but didn't say good-bye and head for the back door for work like usual, I was mystified. I had forgotten that he had taken a vacation day to attend our school's VIP day with our youngest son. On VIP day the students are allowed to invite a special person, usually a parent or grandparent, to spend the school day with them. This special day begins with an all-school Mass at 8:15 instead of the usual daily Mass at 7 AM which had been canceled.

With no 7 AM Mass to begin my day, especially on a First Friday, I felt the first ominous signs of fear. Since that day last January when I was elected president of Roses for Our Lady, an organization with a thirty year history for which I am completely unqualified to lead, I have thrown myself into learning as much as I can about holy hours and May Crownings and Eucharistic rosary processions. This upcoming event which will be held on Mother's Day, which I had only attended last year for the first time, is just so beautiful and holy, that no amount of preparation feels adequate for me. Upon arriving at work, I read some correspondence from my friend Kurt who has been mentoring and helping me through all of the details involved in being the president of Roses for Our Lady and in planning a May Crowning, and I found these words:

"remember, the devil is still gonna try to screw things up the closer we get to the actual event...be prepared...in the end though, all will be fine, and Our Lady will triumph!"

But instead of focusing on "Our Lady will triumph" I dwelt on "the devil is gonna try to screw things up."

The Devil at Hand

After a morning at work, I made a quick stop at home before my dentist appointment, to check the mail and throw the laundry in the dryer. The mail contained three letters from the high school with my three oldest son's fourth quarter progress reports. Although two of those reports were fine as expected, the third was very unpleasant with less than ideal marks and notes from the teachers stating, "does not turn in assignments." Doesn't every mother blame herself when her children fail? Doesn't she think, if only I spent more time helping him, nagging him to study, double checking his work instead of running around with all of my "holy things," maybe he'd do better. Well, whether or not every mother blames herself, this one certainly does, and I've no doubt it was the whisperings of the evil one that lay this guilt upon me, since I know from past experience that mid-term progress reports don't tell the full story of how my children are doing in school, and that there is still plenty of time to pick up the pieces and improve.

With that self-blaming knot in my stomach, I ran downstairs to tend to the laundry and found that our eighteen-year-old washing machine had finally seen its last load of wash. The laundry was still soaking wet. I ran the spin cycle again and was met with the loud noise of a broken motor and a wringer which stood absolutely still. There was no time to deal with it now, as I had to hurry to the dentist, fully expecting him to find a cavity, thinking bad luck was on the schedule for the day. Fortunately, sitting in Dr. Baggott's cozy new dental chair was the best part of my day. Dr. Baggott and his wife had been parishioners at St. Matthias when Paul and I had first joined and they were the ones who taught the baptism class when we were expecting our first son. I told Dr. Baggott about John's recent Confirmation and about how his faith began with those classes that Paul and I had attended all those years ago. "Oh, so it took!" he exclaimed, making me smile behind all of the dental instruments in my mouth.

This surprisingly pleasant experience at the dentist's was followed by an appointment with a loan officer. My husband and I are working on a refinancing deal for our home, looking to scrape together a few extra dollars to cover the cost of Catholic School tuition for the upcoming year. Dreading a dental appointment is nothing compared to the stress of refinancing your house, so when we arrived home, I was grateful for the Easter season and the end of fasting so that I could enjoy a glass of wine with my dinner. But wine wasn't what I was needing. What I was needing was prayer which at the present time, I simply could not put forth.

A Few Words

By the end of the day, my tired and weary eyes felt like sand equal to the dryness of my throat from which no prayer could flow. I clung to my rosary as if it were Mary's hand and trusted that others would be praying for me as I drifted off to sleep.

Upon arising the following day, I opened my Magnifacat Magazine and read the following words from prayer for morning:

"Throughout her life, Mary emptied herself of every shred of even sinless self-interest. Filled instead with the presence of God, the water of life from the fountain of salvation, she was free to offer her Son to the Father on the cross and to sing with joy in his resurrection."

Then, when I opened my emails, I found these words of wisdom from a new-found friend regarding the May Crowning:

"A blessed Mother’s Day to you! What a great way to honor Our Lady! If you focus on honoring her, all the little details will take care of themselves, as you will surely see. "

What wonders a few words can do to turn my attitude around!

And so, I turn all of my stress, worry and fear over to the Blessed Mother. Today I will empty myself of all my self-interest and focus on honoring the Mother of us all, and I will remember that I am not in this alone. I am blessed with the presence of so many wonderful friends who care deeply about honoring Mary and are selflessly giving of themselves to make the May Crowning a truly special event. Making the Mother's Day May Crowning a joyous and holy occasion will probably be one of the easier things I'll ever have to do in this life when I remember the often repeated phrase "It's not about you" and realize that those words are wise; for it is not about me, it's about the woman who leads us to the only One who matters, Jesus himself. My involvement with Roses for Our Lady and the May Crowning is a labor of love; a holy thing, that will reap heavenly rewards beyond my present understanding, if only I would get out of the way and let her gently lead.

"On this day, O beautiful Mother,
On this day we give thee our love.

Near thee Madonna, fondly we hover,
Trusting thy gentle care to prove."