Friday, July 29, 2011

Look To Him

















I woke up feeling moody and grouchy this morning, both tired and discouraged immediately upon arising before I even began my day. I didn't have the energy to fight off the ugliness and I was quickly caving into gloom.

I lector at daily Mass three days each week and today was one of them. As I approach the ambo I usually whisper a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking Him to speak through me and allow everyone present in church to be moved by the words of scripture as I proclaim them. But today I only muttered a half-hearted prayer to Jesus as I bowed to His presence in the tabernacle asking, "Please, help me get through this."

The readings were so beautiful on this Feast of St. Martha and despite my lack of fervor in prayer, I quickly felt the love of the Lord through the words I was reading. Who couldn't feel His love when reading 1 John 4:7-16, this beautiful passage about the love of God? But although I could sense His love, I was still distracted by my emotions and I lost my place which resulted in me reading verse eight twice: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." My mistake brought about the heat of an embarrassed blush quickly rising in my face.

By the time I came to the psalm, however, my embarrassment proved to be unfounded, for there I was reading my favorite scripture passage from Psalm 34: "Look to Him, that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame."

God's timing is amazing, is it not? Despite my negativity and my half-hearted attempt to proclaim His word, He would not allow me to forget His great love for me and maybe it was His doing after all, that caused me to repeat verse eight today. I think He had a message in that passage that He wanted to drive home to me; He wanted me to know that in my contrariness I was failing to love, failing to look to Him and know Him.

Through His amazing providence and His perfect love, all shame and embarrassment is cast out, all moodiness, fear and hate are gone. I will always look to Him and know that

God is love!

Getaway

"So you say you've tried but you just can't find the pleasure,
people around you givin' you pressure
Try to resist all the hurt that's all around you
If you taste it, it will haunt you

So come take me by the hand
We'll leave this troubled land
I know we can...getaway"

~Earth, Wind and Fire


My husband and I found a little bit of pleasure this past week when we attended his company's annual conference (Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance) right here in Milwaukee, which always includes a private concert for the employees. This year the concert was by Earth, Wind and Fire, so to get in the spirit of a fun night out, I've been listening to a lot of their music lately and I found the above lyrics from "Getaway" to be particularly poignant.

In my life, I find that I am frequently dissatisfied with my spiritual growth and am easily tormented by pangs of pride, greed and jealousy. How I long to cast aside all of that ugliness that clings to my soul, to escape from the sins that relentlessly wear me down and to freely relish the unconditional love of God that is mine to enjoy if only I would stop fighting Him and would just surrender to all that He means for me to enjoy. I need a getaway of my own from all that suffocates and holds me back from the good pleasure of the Lord. And I found it...

My personal escape hatch, my getaway from stress, worry and sin, can be found in a strand of beads complete with a silver crucifix on the end. When I hold a rosary in my hand, slipping the beads through my fingers while whispering the words of prayer and contemplating the life of the Lord, I am taken away from the darkness of this world and enter into a loving relationship with my mother who holds my hand through the beads, and she promises me that she will always love me, will be right beside me whenever I call on her in prayer, and will gently guide me to her precious Son's heart by sharing the story of His life with me.

In carefully listening to the words that sound through a song in my radio, I hear the voice of the Mother of God who assures me that I really can getaway from this troubled land, this valley of tears, and enter into eternal joy where she will hold my hand forever in the presence of the Trinity.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Kingdom of God is Within You-A Guest Post by Fr. Dan Murphy

The parishioners at St. Matthias Parish in Milwaukee are very blessed because we have a fellow parishioner who happens to be a retired priest, Fr. Dan Murphy. Fr. Dan graciously helps out at Sunday and daily Mass on occasion, and whenever he does you can just feel a sense of joy among the people in the pews because we all know that when Fr. Dan is there, we are in for a real treat! His homilies, both in word and in the gentle and loving way he delivers them, are always a source of comfort to those that hear them. My son Joe is always quick to nudge me after every single one of Fr. Dan's homilies and he reminds me that Fr. Dan is his favorite priest.

One of my favorite mysteries of the rosary is the third Luminous Mystery-The Proclamation of the Kingdom. Whenever I pray this particular mystery I am always overcome with the wonderful knowledge that the kingdom of God is within me, a poor and miserable sinner. What a marvel that is!

Fr. Dan has kindly given me permission to post his most recent daily Mass homily about the Kingdom of God so that you might also marvel at the goodness of God and His gift of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is Within You
Fr. Dan Murphy


"The kingdom of heaven is like a fishing net that caught fish of every kind." Matthew 13:47

That mysterious kingdom of his! It must have always been on his mind. In the gospels, there are 150 references to that kingdom. The more Jesus spoke about it, the more shrouded in fog it seems to be. He calls it a hidden treasure, a box full of gold coins hidden somewhere in a field. He calls it a precious pearl, a jewel found by a shop owner. That lucky person gladly sold everything they had to buy the field and claim the precious jewel as their own. Jesus also called his kingdom a fishing net full of fish, good ones and bad ones. At other times, he called his kingdom yeast and light, salt and seed, a ripe harvest, a royal banquet, an enormous party and even a wedding feast.

You’ve been searching for this kingdom of God for a long time, too, haven’t you? Some people think that you need to travel to some really special far away holy place, like Lourdes or Jerusalem or Holy Hill. All the examples that Jesus mentions suggests that God has hidden this mysterious kingdom in the best hiding place of all. Right out in the open.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure that’s hidden.” Jesus knew that if you couldn’t find the presence of God in everyday life, you wouldn’t be able to recognize God in anything else, either. So don’t be surprised to find God hiding in your own back yard, in your friends, in children or in strangers. It would be just like God to be there. But just thinking about the kingdom doesn’t help, does it?

When would be the best time to get started? How about silently going inside for a few moments right now? Because:

“The Kingdom of God is within you."

Ascension


















She stands outside the tomb of death
crushed by loneliness
and desire; selfishly
clinging to a memory.

He speaks-
"Touch me not.
I have not yet ascended
to my Father."

And in a mixture of
loving anguish and joy
she backs away
and watches Him
as He leaves her side.

How can she begin to fathom
that her patient waiting-
her surrender to His plan-
will result in unimaginable
joy for not only herself
but for all?

Without fully understanding
His words, the saint accepts them
and lets go of her loved One.
She surrenders to His divine will,
bravely sets aside her grief
and embraces a greater love
for the common good.

She lets go...
and He ascends.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Festa Italiana















On Sunday morning when I left church, I found a little slip of paper tucked into the windshield wiper of my van, and then noticed that every car in the parking lot had the same little piece of paper in the windshield.

The slip read, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" Exodus 20:4

It was clearly a dig on the Catholic faith and the fact that we use statues to remind us of Jesus, the Blessed Mother and the Saints. I doubt that the message on the windshields did very much to change hearts away from the faith. Every Catholic knows that we don't worship the statues, and that we don't even worship the saints that they represent, but simply venerate the saints and use the statues as reminders of the holy people who lead us to God, and we recognize that these holy men and women who have gone before us are deeply loved by God so much and that He will surely listen to their requests, and so we ask the saints for their assistance in praying to God for our needs.

So on that very same day in which my faith was quietly questioned by an anonymous slip of paper, I was very proud to participate in a celebration of Catholic faith where we honored our Eucharistic Lord in union with those very same saints whom we revere with statues, flowers, candles and prayer. Together with my family and Roses for Our Lady I attended Festa Italiana a cultural and faith-filled annual celebration in Milwaukee. At Festa, several Italian Catholic societies bring out the various statues of Italian saints that had been preserved from Our Lady of Pompeii Church before it was torn down in 1967 to make a freeway, and carry them in a Eucharistic Procession to honor our Lord.

Sunday Morning at Festa begins with a beautiful and moving Mass with Archbishop Listecki that is attended by nearly 10,000 people and is followed by the Eucharistic Procession throughout the Festival grounds with all of the statues from the former church, as well as Roses for Our Lady's statue of Our Lady of Fatima, and ends with the Archbishop blessing the statues and then offering Benediction.

Roses for Our Lady is the only non-Italian group that is invited to participate in the procession each year. Our statue of Our Lady of Fatima is not from the former Italian Church but was from our founding priest, Fr. Thaddeus Bryl (+) who founded Roses for Our Lady in 1980. It was a great honor for our group to be invited. But the greatest honor of all was to process with so many devoted Catholics throughout the Festa Grounds while praying the rosary and following our Eucharistic Lord. And although the statues we processed with were made of plaster and paint, the holy saints that they represented were very much there with us in spirit, and together, we were all following Our Lord Jesus Christ in worship and adoration for Him alone. It was a beautiful occasion, a wonderful celebration of faith, and I look forward to participating again for many years to come!

Fullness of Heart

"From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks." Luke 6:45















How can I remain silent when God has placed one blessing after another within my life? My heart overflows and will surely burst if I'm not able to release all that wells up within me! When I consider how abundantly God has blessed my life through my husband, Paul, a beautiful man, who silently and diligently works with little rest to care for me and for our children, I am overcome with love. He is a constant and steady force for good; a precious gift from God for which I am so unworthy but forever grateful.

I can often be found releasing the fullness of my heart here on this keyboard; typing out my gratitude in word upon word. It's a pretty selfish activity that doesn't bear much fruit for my family, but acts to satisfy my own need to expel some of that fullness from my heart leaving me with room for more and more love and hopefully, please God, to put some of that fullness into the hearts of those who read my words.

But for Paul, he speaks the fullness of his heart in loving action that bears immediate fruit within our family. He does so by supporting my decisions, disciplining and playing with our children, fixing our old worn down house, cooking dinner for the family, and gently holding me in a warm embrace. He attends the pro-life committee with me, even though he'd rather stay home and catch up on the cooking shows he so enjoys. He enforces the rules with our children about proper dress for Mass, which means long pants and dress shoes even when he would rather wear shorts and sandals himself. He engages in a late night basketball game with our sons even though he is dead tired and would rather put his feet up and rest. He patiently listens to our daughter read even though he'd rather listen to the Milwaukee Brewer game on the radio. Recently diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension he faithfully takes his medication, counts calories and plans exercise into each day knowing that his family is counting on him to be in good health. He is joyful, always bringing humor into every situation, making our home resound with laughter. He always puts his own needs and wants aside for the sake of his family. And in the evening, he bows his head and prays, thanking God for the bounty He has blessed us with and asking His favor upon His servant priests. His heart is clearly full and overflowing and he releases the fullness of his heart with every action of his life.

Paul is a quiet man who says few words but instead, he speaks with his loving actions and is the perfect husband and the perfect father following the will of God for his life. My heart is full with love for the man who cares for God and his family with all that is within him. And my full heart will speak of my love for him in grateful praise to God for all of my days.

Paul and I-two full hearts-expressing that fullness in different ways but both desiring to glorify God for placing that fullness within us.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Same Mass-Deeper Meaning

The following is an educational piece that I wrote for our parish newsletter about the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal...

Same Mass-Deeper Meaning
The Roman Missal Third Edition


When the new church year begins this coming Advent the Universal Church will notice some significant changes to the words we pray at Mass. The revision of the Roman Missal from which all of the Mass prayers are taken has been a long time in coming as is true of all changes occurring within the church. In fact, the revised Missal was first announced during the jubilee year of 2000 by Pope John Paul II and the work of translation from Latin to modern languages began in 2002. Based upon information from the Roman Missal Formational Materials provided by the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2010, this third edition of the Roman Missal “contains prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.” This new edition of the Roman Missal is not the first time that the Missal has gone through adaptations; in fact, it has been adjusted numerous times through the centuries to meet the particular needs of the Church at differing times in history.

In the very earliest years of Church history, there weren’t any books of prayer to follow, but collections of prayers were gradually brought together and assembled into a singular format called a sacramentary. Yet, even these books of prayer were not complete and differed according to their use; that is, whether they were meant for a monastery or were used at a local church.

According to the 2010 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “the first true liturgical books which would be called “missals” were found in monasteries beginning around the 12th or 13th centuries. A missale contained not only prayers but the biblical readings, the chants, and the rubrics for the celebration of Mass.” Then, in 1570 at the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V called for a uniform Missale Romanum that was required to be used throughout the Latin Church.

The current translation of the Missal was a process which involved several groups including the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) whose work required final approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican. “The purpose for the new translation was to bring the Universal Mass to more closely align with the traditional Latin translation while restoring biblical and poetic images. The long-term goal of the new translation is to foster a deeper awareness and appreciation of the mysteries being celebrated at the Mass. The axiom lex orandi, lex credendi—“what we pray is what we believe”—suggests that there is a direct relationship between the content of our prayers and the substance of our faith.” (USCCB website)

While most of the words of prayer that will change during the Mass involve the prayers of the celebrating priest, the faithful participants at Mass will notice some obvious changes in their prayers as well, including changes to the liturgical music that is used. For example, in the Introductory Rites when the priest says “The Lord be with you,” the response of the people will change from “And also with you,” to “And with your spirit.”

At the time when the changes in wording will take place, the USCCB will distribute cards to all churches to assist the congregation with the revised responses. It is hoped that these cards will only be needed for a short time as the new translation will become second nature to those who attend Mass each Sunday.

Change can be challenging, it’s true, but it can also be rejuvenating, calling us all to participate more fully in the Mass, to truly take the words we pray to heart, and to use this time to embrace the Catholic faith and the liturgy that we all love. When we fully participate in the Mass by embracing the changes to the Roman Missal, we will be uniting our hearts to the heart of Christ who, as we all know, underwent painfully dramatic change for our benefit. What a beautiful opportunity we have to show our gratitude for God’s love by gracefully accepting these changes to the liturgy and doing our best to make the Mass an act of love each and every time we attend and celebrate the greatest prayer of the Church, the Holy Mass.

To learn more about the Roman Missal Third Edition and to see the specific changes that will occur, please visit the USCCB’s website at: www.usccb.org/romanmissal.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Seven Quick Takes-The Clutter

OK, I've regained my composure from the last post-here are my remaining quick takes, the clutter that I referred to in my first quick take about Bishop Hying:











2. Joe, at Defend Us In Battle, has this great game going called "Fantasy BishBall." He explains that it is just like Fantasy Football but for Catholic Geeks. The idea is that every time your bishop writes a blog post, issues a heretical smackdown or gives a great homily, in other words, whenever he does something good, you win points for your team of bishops. Count me in, I say! Not only am I a major Catholic Geek, but after these past three days with the Vesper Service, Ordination and Bishop Hying's first Mass, I must have accrued mucho points! My favorite quote that Joe had on his blog was about a priest he knew who was recently elevated to Bishop. Joe referred to the occasion as being "called up to the Bigs!" So, I want to steal that phrase and apply it to Bishop Hying as well. I'm sure it will come in handy on August 18th when both Archbishop Listecki and Bishop Hying will host a tailgate party and attend the Milwaukee Brewer game in an effort to increase subscriptions for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

3. Those who read this blog know that I have a deep love and admiration for Archbishop Dolan (who doesn't?) So, it was a thrill to see him at the ordination on Wednesday. My son John was visiting with his friend Fr. Matthew Widder in the side aisle of the Cathedral before the Ordination Mass when I saw John motioning to me but disregarded it thinking that nothing could be important enough for me to climb over the ten people sitting in the pew between John and I. Then I saw him,Archbishop Dolan, that is, coming up the aisle right past John. Quicker than you can say "episcopal ordination" I had excused my way past those ten people and was hugging Archbishop Dolan. Bliss. That's all I can say about it. Miss that guy in Milwaukee but love what he's doing in New York. (OK-this quick take digressed from the topic of Bishop Hying, but it was a worthy digression, don't you agree?)

4. Moving words during the Ordination Mass: Bishop Hying talked about his family and mentioned that he knew that both of his parents (now deceased) were standing right by his side and all of the saints in heaven were there as well. (I could so feel the presence of all of the saints in heaven!) He commented on the weather saying that he remembered that is was 20 degrees below zero when Archbishop Listecki was installed as Archbishop of Milwaukee and he thought that it must mean that the Archbishop is really cool, but the heat for his own ordination could only mean that God wants him to sweat from the very beginning! And finally, this quote: "If I am anything in life, it's because you have loved me … you have held me … you have supported me."

5. After the Ordination when my husband Paul, our son John, his friend Jerry and I were talking with Bishop Hying, he told John, "Someday this could be you!" John laughed and said that was highly unlikely, but Bishop Hying replied that he had never thought it would be him, either! So humble.

6. From the moment I heard the announcement on May 26th that Fr. Don had been appointed Bishop, my heart grieved for the pending change, knowing that things would never be the same again and I selfishly mourned the fact that he would have less time for me and my family. But on the day of his ordination, the minute I saw him in his mitre, with his crozier in hand, blessing everyone at the Cathedral, all grief was smashed and I was overcome with joy for my friend, for everyone who loves him and for the entire Catholic Church in Milwaukee. In the words of Bishop Hying, "Love never fails, love always wins," and God in His wisdom has showered his love so generously upon us all. There is only joy.

7. Mary to the Bishop: "Can I kiss your ring?" Bishop to Mary: "Sure, if you want to."
















I hope that with these Seven Quick Takes and with all of my posts about Bishop Hying, the sublime holiness, the good-natured friendliness, and the loving warmth of his personality shine through. I am convinced, along with everyone who knows him, that God will bless his episcopacy with many great things. He will work hard, he will be completely present to those who are in need of his attention, he will be loyal to the Magisterium and devoted to Archbishop Listecki, and he will lead all of the people in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee towards the final goal of heaven. We are blessed and I am deeply grateful to God for looking on Milwaukee with favor in the appointment of Bishop Donald Hying.

As always, see Jennifer at Conversion Diary for more quick takes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seven Quick Takes-Bishop Hying Edition












I'm still floating on cloud nine from all of the ordination events of this past week so I thought that perhaps writing out seven quick takes about Bishop Hying and the ordination might help me to begin to settle down and back into ordinary life, although I'm not altogether sure that's possible. Here goes-

1. How we met: Shortly after Bishop Hying began his position as Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary he started writing a monthly e-newsletter called New Heart, New Spirit. It must have been Divine Providence that put my name on that mailing list because I couldn't remember signing up to receive them. Bishop Hying had concluded his first few newsletters by asking the recipients to write back to him. He wanted to know the reader's thoughts about the topics he would write about. So I wrote. And wrote and wrote. At that time I was in the throes of a deep depression and really needed someone to listen to all of the junk that was driving me mad. I would send him these long drawn out emails that must have left him regretting his request for emails and scratching his head with wonder about who was this crazy lady that kept writing to him. But in Christian charity he always wrote back and then one day I received an email from him that said "It would be great to sit down and talk sometime. You seem like a beautiful soul." So we arranged to meet and shortly after that he took me on for spiritual direction. Just last winter I reminded him of how we met and I asked him if he would still consider me to be a beautiful soul now that he has come to know me so well, and this was his answer: "I see the beauty of your soul in ever more vivid hues."

Well, that does it. After writing that, I just can't write any more-too many tears clouding the way, and really beyond that everything else I would have to say is just clutter. So, consider this the quickest of all the seven quick takes you've ever read and maybe I'll share all of the other inconsequential facts another day!

Joining Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Love Never Fails



















(Photo credit: Rick Wood, JS Online)

It was the most beautiful experience of my life and I will never be the same for having been present at the ordination of Fr. Don Hying to the episcopacy, and really, I have never been the same since God blessed my life with the friendship of this holy man four years ago. I just couldn't believe that Fr. Don had actually invited my husband and I, such ordinary nobodies, to his Ordination Mass, a ticketed event to which he was only allowed to invite 120 people of his own choosing. On this extraordinary day, Wednesday, July 20th, 2011, ninety-five degree heat with humidity could not keep eighteen bishops and 900 priests, religious and lay faithful from attending the Ordination Mass for Bishop Donald Joseph Hying. To see my holy friend enter the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee as a humble and beloved priest and in that place become transformed into a revered bishop is an honor that I will never forget!

The Ordination Mass was absolutely gorgeous and being there was the most memorable gift I have ever been given. Throughout the two hour Mass, I was overcome by my emotions and was wiping away tears of joy again and again, and looking around at the faces of the others at Mass, I could see that I was not the only one smiling through the tears. But the most beautiful smile of all was the one that was on the face of Bishop Hying as he joyfully accepted his new role in the Church.















(Photo credit: Rick Wood, JS Online)

I will forever cherish the sight and sounds of Bishop Hying lying prostrate before the altar as the entire church chanted the Litany of the Saints. His microphone was turned on and his breathing could be heard over the voices of the choir and congregation. The loud rhythm of what seemed to be his breath moving in and out of his lungs sounded like the thumping of a heartbeat and I couldn't help but think that it must have been the very heartbeat of God that I was hearing united with that of a man who is so very in love with God and His Church. I was keenly aware of God's presence at that moment and knew that He is deeply in love with Bishop Hying and is overjoyed with his appointment to the episcopacy, after all, it was His will that brought this to fruition.

I was deeply moved to see Bishop Hying kneeling before Archbishop Listecki while two deacons stood beside him holding the book of the Gospels over his head, to see Archbishop Listecki pour the Oil of Chrism into his hair and finally to see the Archbishop crown him with his golden mitre. At that moment, I looked over to my husband and saw him just grinning with joy and in fact, everyone in church was grinning at the sight of our beautiful new bishop in his mitre with his crozier and his ring, which had been a gift to him from Archbishop Dolan.

That ring, which I had the great honor to kiss at the reception following Mass, was an image of the crucifix with Mary and St. John standing at the foot of the cross. To think that the simple and wonderful act of kissing Bishop Hying's ring could have the power to shave some time off from the purgation that will be my due after death just astounds me! How I love being Catholic!

At the end of the day as dusk was falling and Paul and I were leaving the celebratory dinner at the seminary, the darkness was punctuated by the flickering of thousands of fireflies dancing in joyous celebration along the seminary's tree lined drive and in the surrounding fields. Even nature rejoices at the glories of God and his love for us, especially on this day when His love was shown in the lifting up of a kind and holy soul to the position of Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

For his episcopal motto, Bishop Hying chose "Love Never Fails" and I know that God's unfailing love is clearly evident in the life of Bishop Hying. I join in with the voices of exultation in the Archdiocese, the voices in human form, heavenly form, and those of the elements of nature, in praising God for this precious gift of the loving friendship, and what is sure to be the inspired leadership, of Bishop Donald Joseph Hying.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Eve of Ordination


We were blessed to get this quick snapshot of my family and I with Bishop Donald Hying at the reception following his Vesper Service on the eve of his ordination. The lines to greet him were loooong and the weather was steamy hot and everybody who was there wanted a picture with him. What a kind soul he is to put up with all of that!

My favorite line from the evening: Mary wanted to sit in the front but I told her that those pews were reserved for his family and best friends. She said, "But Mom, I thought you were his best friend!" And the fact is, he treats people with so much love, kindness and genuine interest that everyone who knows him actually feels as if they are his one and only best friend.

Please pray for this good and holy man that God will shower his episcopacy as Auxiliary Bishop in Milwaukee with many blessings!!! (In fact, maybe you want to mosey on over to the sidebar and click on the Rosary for the Bishop button and sign up to pray a weekly rosary for him and any other bishop you may know!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Missionary Servants of the Holy Family


We've all heard and seen it many times and in many places: the family is under attack today. The devil would love nothing better than to destroy the hearth and home of traditional families who seek to serve the Lord and glorify Him with prayerful and holy lives. But we don't have to stand by helplessly and allow the devil to have his way with us. We can fight back with more prayer and one young lady is working very hard to see to it that God will triumph and families who long to model themselves after the Holy Family will prevail against the evils of this world.

It was December of 2009 when Maryclare Stephens offered her first Holy Hour for Families at St. Francis de Sales Seminary under the spiritual guidance of Fr. Don Hying (now Bishop Hying) in an effort to found a religious organization whose sole purpose would be to pray for the sanctity of families. Her efforts to establish The Missionary Servants of the Holy Family is beginning to bear much fruit in just under two years of prayer and work as her following letter will attest. Won't you consider helping Maryclare to establish this holy endeavor by supporting her with whatever means you have available and by offering her your prayers?

"After much prayer and work our good God has finally lead the Missionary Servants of the Holy Family to their first home. The Missionary Servants of the Holy Family will be starting their work and beginning their life and mission in the old rectory of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in the little town of Brighton, WI...The home will be called, Our Lady Queen of Families and Mother of the Church Mission House ( Our Lady's Mission House for short) in honor of our Blessed Mother who I know played a big role in finding this home for us. To her, St. Joseph and our Infant King I am most thankful! It has been beautiful watching our good God at work in leading me to finding this place. It has been a long but most beautiful journey. Thank you so much to all of you for your prayers and support! Your prayers were so greatly needed and appreciated! Please continue to keep me and this work in your prayers that I will have the strength to always follow God's will. I still have a need for money support. If you are able to give anything monthly or even as a one time donation that would be most helpful! If you know of other families or individuals who may be able to help support this mission please, please, please pass this on to them. Also please pray that God may send young women to help in God's great work for marriage and families."

Visit The Missionary Servants of the Holy Family here to learn more.

La Vie Graphite


My blogging journey began a little over two years ago and one of the very first blogs that I discovered was La Vie Graphite written by a man with the pseudonym of "Speculator" who shares stories of his life in Maine. Speculator's deeply contemplative thoughts are often posted with an old-fashioned typewriter and his photography is both clean and creative. There is a sense of history in his words that allows the reader to enter his life and know him without ever knowing it all, for he masterfully maintains a bit of mystery as well.

Through the well-thought out words and wisdom of the ecumenical Speculator I have been drawn to the beauty and peace of Taize prayer and have longed to follow his lead in spending time alone with God in an annual retreat. The careful reading of Speculator's words always leads to the peace of God, yet he does it in such a way that the reader would barely realize that they are reading a faith blog; for God is masterfully blended into his life story in a very gentle and discreet way. He never overpowers the reader with his faith but reveals it in a gentle and unmistakable undercurrent that allows one to know the basis of all that is good in this world.

Won't you visit his blog and allow yourself to savor his words and photography and therein find yourself drawing into a deeper relationship with God, finding Him more and more in the ordinary events of your own life?

Thanks to Holly at A Life Size Catholic for this weekly "Pay it Forward" MEME!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Poetry from Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, SP

Words of Fr. Fitzgerald, SP that move my soul...

St. Margaret Mary












There were so many thorns
about his brow,
so many red lips
to prove the reality
of His love,
so little fertility
in the soil of
His creature's affections,
so much of Winter everywhere:
need we be surprised that
when the Gardener
found a rose
fragrant with remembrance
He should lift it
to His Heart?

~Paths from Bethlehem

Snowdrops

The lesson of the snowdrops is this: Listen, for I am going to let them speak to you.


Dear little one, you love us, do you not? And why do you love us? Because you see that we are sweet and fair; and we are sweet and white and fair because we have lifted our white heads up and hold them up bravely above the damp clay of Mother Earth's dark breast. Do you want to be loved, too? Do you want God and His Blessed Mother and His angels and saints to look on your soul and smile with pleasure upon it? You do; of course you do. Then you have only to imitate us. Lift your soul off the earth; lift it up, bravely, calmly. Do not let its fragrant petals drag in the soil; do not let selfish hands pluck you. Be not afraid that you will be crushed under foot. A Divine Gardener watches with jealous love over your growth, refreshing you with the gentle dew of His Heart's Blood, while he warms the Golden Mantle of His grace. It is true that we are on earth, but our souls are made to be lifted up, up from the earth to God. If you lift your soul up to God, He will use your life even as he has used ours; only yours in a nobler manner, to bring happiness to other lives and the fragrance of God's Love and the sweetness of God's beauty into the cloistered garden of a Christian home.

~Letters of Father Page

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Home

My family and I made a trip back to my hometown for the annual Kopidlansky family reunion (my mother's maiden name.) Unlike my last visit home where I was discouraged to see that many of the churches in Manitowoc (a city with a population of nearly 40,000) including Sacred Heart Parish where I attended grade school are now closed, this trip left me feeling both joyful and hopeful for the church in Manitowoc and the church in the world.

My family on my mom's side is huge-she was one of ten children and each of her siblings had an average of five children and those children (myself, my siblings and cousins) went on to have an average of three children each...I'm sure you get the picture-there's a lot of us-so many, in fact, that I don't know most of them. When we were preparing to leave for the reunion I was in a pretty dark mood and not at all feeling up to socializing with relatives whom I don't know very well. But, Paul and the children were eager to go, so I did my best to put on a smile and we made the 80 mile trip to Manitowoc to spend a day with my family.

What I enjoy most about family reunions is not so much the catching up on what everyone has been doing during the past year, but the reminiscing about family members now gone from the world and hopefully, looking down with fondness, love and prayer for those of us still trekking the path to eternity. Unlike the family reunions I've attended in the past, this one didn't end with the picnic, games and socialization, instead, it ended with prayer which completely obliterated any remembrance of my earlier dark mood and made this family reunion the best one I have ever attended.

My son John was scheduled to work at his nursing home job bright and early the next morning so we decided to attend Sunday Mass in Manitowoc before heading home for the night. It turned out that many of my relatives had the same idea and a large group of us headed over to St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Waldo Boulevard (formerly Holy Innocents Parish) for the 4:30 Mass. The last time I had been in this particular church was for my dad's funeral five years ago. I had the honor of reading the scriptures for his funeral Mass that day, and it was then that I was inspired to become a lector for my own parish. So I was pleasantly surprised to see my aunt Judy, with whom I had just been visiting at the reunion, get up to proclaim the second reading! After Mass I told her how surprised I was to see her reading and she confessed that she was surprised as well. They had just asked her to fill in for an absent lector at the last minute!

I was so happy to see that the pastor of the only parish (which includes three church locations) in Manitowoc and now the newly appointed Vicar General for the Diocese of Green Bay, would be celebrating the Mass. He is the same priest who had been the associate pastor at Holy Innocents when I was still living in Manitowoc over 25 years ago. Back then, Fr. Dan Felton was a newly ordained associate pastor and was a wonderful leader for teens; my friends and I could easily relate to this young and enthusiastic priest. With Fr. Dan teaching my Confirmation preparation classes, learning about my faith was a joy and his homilies were so outstanding that I can still remember some of them to this day. In fact, one homily in particular about taking risks using the analogy of an acorn clinging to the branch of a tree, fearful to let go, still returns to my mind whenever I am challenged by a new opportunity that seems to be more than I can handle. How many people can say that they remember a homily from 25 years ago?

The large church was full for Mass and a transitional deacon in his last year of training for the priesthood was helping out. Fr. Dan's homily about the Holy Spirit's power to translate our groanings into prayer did not disappoint, and through his words I was beginning to realize that the Holy Spirit certainly did take the groanings of my dark mood from earlier in the day and translate them into prayer very effectively. I was so happy to have a minute to talk with him after Mass and I told him that I had been at Holy Innocents parish all those years ago when he was the associate pastor. He laughed and told me that it's still so hard for him to believe that he has been a priest for that long, (he just celebrated 30 years of priesthood) and in fact, he recently presided at the marriage of a young couple whose parents he had married all those years ago as an associate pastor! What a beautiful tribute that is to the longevity of his priesthood!

It was so uplifting to have those few minutes to speak with Fr. Dan and to spend time at Mass surrounded by my immediate family as well as my siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins in the parish of my youth, the same parish that was founded by my great-uncle, Fr. Edward Radey. And as I left St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, for the first time in a long time, I really felt that when I visited the city of my youth I was truly at home.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Have Peace









disquiet overcomes
and irritation prevails
the pangs of pride
control me
taking over my peace

and He calls to me
bids me to come to Him
and I am drawn
to Eucharistic Adoration
falling on my knees before Him

praying for the peace
that comes from humility
I empty my soul
of all that torments
and release it to His love

arriving home
I see a rainbow in the clouds
His colorful covenant
of love for this unworthy
prideful creature

He called to me
He emptied me
He loves me

In the midst of my ugly pride
He gives me a rainbow of love
and I have peace
I have peace

Enshrined

















It was with great anticipation that I watched the ABC Nightline Primetime Special "Beyond Belief" last night, where they showcased Our Lady of Good Help Shrine in Champion, Wisconsin. My sisters and I are planning a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Help Shrine next month so I was eager to see how it would be portrayed on television and I was pleasantly surprised to see such a well-done program highlighting the love that Catholics have for the Blessed Mother. Watching it increased my anticipation of my upcoming pilgrimage.

My clever son Joe was quick to point out that I really don't need to travel to a Shrine because I create my own each and every day when I work out on the treadmill at the YMCA. He sees me with the treadmill's television tuned to EWTN for the Mass and I've always got several prayer books and some spiritual reading lined up on the treadmill shelf so that my daily work-out becomes a prayer. I always called it multi-tasking but Joe says that I'm "enshrined" on my treadmill and he is sure to tell me that my one-dimensional lack of interest in anything that isn't about God and religion is not normal. But, I am equally quick to retort that if I am truly not normal then I am grateful to be in the company of St. Paul! ("Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me." 1Corinthians 15:8) And how blessed we would all be to become so enshrined in our faith that nothing else would matter!


Our Lady of Good Help, pray for us!!!

If you missed "Beyond Belief" you can watch the episode here. The program that followed on Nightline Late Night about Consecrated Virgins was equally well done.

Monday, July 11, 2011

All-Love, loving






















I've been reading a wonderful book, A Prophet for the Priesthood: A Spiritual Biography of Fr. Gerald M.C. Fitzgerald by Fr. John Hardon, SJ. It's beyond amazing to read a book by one great and holy priest about another great and holy priest who devoted his life to praying for and helping all priests, but especially for those who struggled in their vocation. In today's world when we hear of one priest after another falling from grace, it's so hopeful to know that this isn't something new and that there is someone who cared enough to build a lasting religious order to combat the temptations and trials that beset the priesthood.

Fr. Fitzgerald was the founder of the Society of the Paraclete for priests and the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, an order of contemplative nuns who devote their lives to supporting and praying for priests. He worked tirelessly to promote Eucharistic Adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I found the following quote to be particularly poignant:

"Even if you had the happiest of human homes, even if you had the great sense of security, the love of the finest earthly husband and children, it would only be for a few years...The shadow of the cross lies over every life. It can't be otherwise because only by the cross can we be redeemed. And the cross is terribly hard unless we love the Corpus on it. The Blessed Sacrament is for us the Corpus on the Cross.

It is for us Mother and Father, and brother and sister, and Bridegroom and Bride. It's All. Here is all the tenderness of the Eternal Father. Here is the source of that little mysterious throbbing of your heart which means that you are living.


O Lord Jesus, like a child who only knows that the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus, teach us that which is the supreme wisdom of all the Catholic philosophies. St. Augustine was a lover. That is the secret of sanctity, to be a lover of God. Here in the Blessed Sacrament is everything. Here is All-Love, loving."


And this quote about desiring good will is very moving:

"Beg God to give you a good will. We recognize it in others, do we not? We are lost, we get nowhere unless there is good will. That is all that God has blessed on earth, is it not? He made that careful distinction and had His angels express it at the moment when heaven was radiant in its own generosity, when the night was filled with the music of the angel choirs. And what was it that they are proclaiming? Not peace on earth to everyone but only peace on earth to men of good will."

To learn more about Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, a priest of very good will, visit the Handmaids of the Precious Blood.

Praise for Women Writers

This week's Pay it Forward post is a tribute to two local women writers, both of whom I have long admired...










Milwaukee is blessed with the talents of two women who share their faith in the written word; both write blogs, both write for the Catholic Herald and both write for many other Catholic publications as well. I am continually inspired by the writing abilities of these women, and secretly jealous of all of their accomplishments, although I'm sure that if I confessed this fact to them, they would both humbly deny the need for my jealousy!

Marge Fenelon is a member of the Schoenstatt Movement and her writing is clearly blessed by her deep and abiding faith in the Mother Thrice Admirable. Her website, Marge Mix, is a continual source of wisdom in the faith. While visiting her website, be sure to check out her clever "Why Daisies" page and don't forget to shop for her wise and witty books as well! You can read my review of When's God Gonna Show Up? here.

Karen Mahoney is a freelance writer for the Catholic Herald and her stories are always some of the best-written features around! Her blog, Write 2 the Point, is a great place to find all of her previous Catholic Herald stories as well as to catch up on the events of her life.

Join Holly at A Life Size Catholic and Pay it Forward to your favorite blogs!

Another Holy Man













He's decided to come to Mass with me every day this summer; quite a feat for a fifteen year old boy who would much rather sleep in than rise at 6 AM in the barely there light of morning while his siblings remain sleeping. He wouldn't come with me if it were just about the Mass, I know; he comes because I take him with me to the YMCA immediately following Mass. He's working on building his physical strength this summer and I'm amazed to see him becoming quite muscular at a rapid pace. His faithfulness to exercise is reaping immediate rewards, but I know that his faithfulness at prayer is reaping even greater spiritual rewards, although he's not quite ready to admit that.

What I most enjoy about my time with my son at daily Mass other than the overwhelming realization that he towers over me in height (I barely come up to his shoulders) is that I notice subtle signs of his ever softening heart. Joe is tough and doesn't want anyone thinking that he isn't. But I see the signs and I know that God has got his hand firmly upon his soul, gradually leading him into a deep faith. After his daily complaint about having to sit in the front because his mother is the lector, he asks me to hand him my blue Pieta prayer book which is always in my purse. It is his daily habit to pray to St. Joseph, his patron saint, from the prayer in that book. When Mass begins, he fully and respectfully participates but after Mass is sure to complain about the length of Father's homily, regardless of how short it actually was, as he races for the door so as not to miss out on any of his workout time.

The conversation in the car is usually filled with questions, the signs of a boy searching for meaning in the faith in which he is being raised. He's sure to remind me that it is difficult to be the son of a Jesus freak. When wondering about my work history, I told him the story about how miserable I was when I worked in food service management before I was married. I had applied for a new job in clinical nutrition and promised God that I would attend daily Mass if He could please see to it that the part-time job I wanted could be mine. When God came through on His end of the deal, I was sure to follow through on mine and I began to attend daily Mass on my off-days.

Joe's mouth hung open in astonishment at this fact. "You mean you were a Jesus freak even before you were married? And Dad married you anyway?" I answered, "Joe, I was raised to be a Jesus freak, I've been one my whole life. And so are you. Your faith will be with you forever, guiding you in your decisions, nurturing you in your sorrows, strengthening you in your trials, and enhancing your joys as long as you don't let anything come between you and God." And the boy who loves to argue and win, was blissfully silent as he absorbed this fact, and I offered a silent prayer that God would always keep his hand firmly in place on my son's soul and never allow him to power lift his way out of a deep and abiding relationship with his heavenly Father.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of Holy Ground, Holy Hours and Holy Men

"But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.” from Matthew 13:1-23














After hearing the above Gospel reading at Mass, my son Joe questioned me: "Mom, what kind of soil are you?" We all want to be the rich soil, don't we, because we know that it's the "right" kind of soil, the one that will yield the most holiness in our hearts. But sadly, somehow, I don't think I'm there yet, and maybe I need more composting in my heart to enrich my soil. I had to honestly answer that question by saying that right now in the present moment the garden of my life is growing in the rocky soil, for I am always quick to hear the word of God and impulsively and joyfully accept it and believe that now I will finally live as a loving and faithful child of God, that my faith is rich and deep and strong. But along comes a storm or two, and maybe a drought in between, and before you know it, I'm withered and complaining, barely hanging on to my faith. I need some type of continual sustenance to change my rocky soil into the rich and fertile holy ground of deep and lasting faith.

Yet it wasn't too long after I answered that question when I felt the sweet consolations of God despite the sweltering heat of summer and felt that maybe through the prayers offered today at Roses for Our Lady's monthly Holy Hour for vocations at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, that my soil was perhaps becoming just a little richer and more prosperous. The chapel was filled with over sixty people praying fervently for an increase in vocations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We were blessed with the presence of newly ordained Fr. Kevin McManaman and his parents, too! I could feel the love of God permeating throughout the chapel, pouring out from His presence in the Holy Eucharist and filling the air with the joy of both answered prayer and prayers yet to be answered.

In the Holy Ground of the Seminary the soil is always rich and moist with prayer and I felt in my heart that God was drawing the roots of those prayers deep into the earth where they would be strengthened and sustained and result in the sweet fruit of many holy and happy vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Holy ground, fertilized by holy hours of prayer, resulting in holy men. How rich!!!

What kind of soil are you?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saint Mary Magdalene






















(Magdalene by Antonio Veneziano from Magnifacat Magazine)

Her feast day rapidly approaches; my favorite saint, Mary Magdalene, with her jar of alabaster whom we honor on July 22nd, and I have found the most lovely poem written in her honor. Today I snuck away to one of my favorite places, the Salzmann Library at St. Francis de Sales Seminary where three treasures were waiting for me to indulge my spiritual avarice-three books written by or about Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, the holy founder of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, a cloistered order who devote themselves to praying for priests. Fr. Fitzgerald wrote poetry and had it published under the pseudonym of A. Page, CSC, and it was in his book titled Paths from Bethlehem where I found this delicious poem:

To Saint Mary Magdalene

You claimed
the false
until you found
the True;
your beauty
wounded
until Beauty
wounded you,
and plunged your soul
into a spring so sweet
your tears
fell as chaste pearls
at Mercy's
feet.


St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Absolution






















I find myself steeped in sin
and long to be made clean
so I hike over to the local
church and get in line

there are six before me, and soon
there are eight behind me;
I am a sinner in the midst of sin

the line moves slowly for
sin isn't washed away
with a swipe of the cloth
it takes a bit of scrubbing, and
scrubbing takes time

a rosary and a divine mercy chaplet
and it's my turn in the box
I offer my sins wrapped in
sorrow and contrition
and receive advice and penance in return

and then it comes-
the prayer that has the power
to thrill me every time
I hear it-

"God the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit."


and with those beautiful words
that sound remarkably like
God saying "I love you"
I am renewed, refreshed and redeemed
and can walk upright on
the return journey to the rest of my life

Monday, July 4, 2011

Raising a Vocation












The year was 1881 and the location was the small town of Lu, Italy. Many of the mothers in this time and place had a deep desire that one of their sons would become a priest or that their daughters would enter religious life. They decided to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration every Tuesday and receive Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month for this intention, and then pray the following prayer:

“O God, grant that one of my sons may become a priest! I myself want to live as a good Christian and want to guide my children always to do what is right, so that I may receive the grace, O God, to be allowed to give you a holy priest! Amen.”

The result of this trusting openness to God's will and the joyful living of their Christian faith brought about 323 priests and religious all from Lu, Italy by the year 1946. The holiness lived by these women allowed their children to hear and respond to the voice of God calling them to a religious vocation. (from Catholic Culture)














This picture is indeed unique in the annals of the Catholic Church. From 1 to 4 September 1946, the majority of the 323 priests and religious met in their village of Lu for a reunion which attracted world-wide attention.

I am tremendously blessed that my oldest son is discerning a call to the priesthood and it was not due to my time in Eucharistic Adoration or any special prayers, but simply through the grace of God. Yet, I am certainly willing to take up the practices of these mothers in long-ago Italy and will encourage others to do so as well, not only for John's possible vocation but for all those who are discerning a call to the priesthood and for an increase in vocations to all religious life. But, John's not a priest yet, and the road to the priesthood is long and difficult, full of hard work,worry, fear and "what if's" such as what if he changes his mind or what if he's not accepted to the seminary. I worry that my deepest hopes for John's future might not actually be God's hopes for him at all and I may be setting myself up for disappointment. Letting go and letting God take charge is a challenge indeed.

Still, there is no denying the fact that the Catholic Church is in desperate need of good and holy vocations, whether or not they come from my family or from yours. I consider it a tremendous blessing that all women and men, whether or not they are parents, have the ability to pray for an increase in vocations, to pray for specific young men and women who feel called to the religious life and to pray for the families of those whose sons or daughters are learning to give their lives to God.

John recently attended St. Francis de Sales Seminary's "Is It I, Lord?" Camp for high school boys discerning a call to the priesthood. This was the fourth year that he attended Seminary Camp. He always calls the experience "the highlight of his summer" and comes home with a fire burning brightly in his heart and soul no matter how weary he may be upon the beginning of the camp. This summer John is working two jobs so believe me when I say that he was plenty weary at the start of camp!

It was two years ago when John returned from camp that he announced he would be writing his own blog. I wasn't entirely thrilled with the idea of my then 15 year old son having a presence on the internet, I worried like all mothers do, but with John's insistence and much prayer, he began Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call and has kept it up for these past two years. Currently, he is working on a series about his experiences at this year's camp and has solicited guest posts from some of his fellow campers of which there was a total of 22 young men this year! Kenny, one of John's friends from camp has recently begun to write his own blog as well, called God Alone Sufficeth. Please pay a visit to his excellent and well-written blog and please keep all of the young men who have attended both the junior high and high school camps in your prayers as they continue to discern God's call for their lives. Perhaps you, too, will pray for an increase in vocations to your community like the mothers in Lu, Italy and find yourself blessed with an abundance of holiness and religious vocations!

Please visit Handmaids of the Precious Blood to learn more about how you can help pray to strengthen those who are already priests. H/T Joe at Defend Us in Battle.

Joining Holly at A Life-size Catholic and Paying it Forward!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sidewalk Counseling 101


















I've always been pro-life, but not very active in the movement. Since my deeper pro-life conversion last Lent inspired by this story from Bishop-elect Hying God has brought me many opportunities to become more active in the pro-life cause. Most recently, my parish has started its first ever pro-life committee and I am proud to be a part of it. We are planning many wonderful activities for Respect Life Month this coming October including involving our parish in the Forty Days for Life Campaign and The Life Chain as well as hosting a Holy Hour for Life-which is in itself quite miraculous since my parish does not normally hold Eucharistic Adoration or Holy Hours.

This past week I was tremendously blessed to attend a pro-life "Sidewalk Counseling 101" session at Lumen Christi Parish in Mequon, WI. While I've only prayed outside of the abortion clinic three times in the past six months, I've prayed inside my WIC office daily because it is at my work place where I encounter far too many abortion issues and have more daily opportunities to help women in crisis pregnancies as well as those suffering the aftermath of abortion, so part of my purpose in attending the meeting was to help me be of better assistance to the women I encounter at the WIC Clinic.

The program presenters of "Sidewalk Counseling 101" were Dan Miller from 40 Days for Life, Lisa Sommers from Rachel's Vineyard and Kerry Lawlor from Catholics 4 Life. Lumen Christi was a lovely suburban church which looked almost brand new yet was not too modern. When I arrived I was thrilled to learn that the adoration chapel was still open so Kerry and I went to spend a few minutes with the Lord before the meeting began, and really, shouldn't all meetings begin that way?

Dan Miller began the program with a slideshow highlighting all of the good done by the 40 Days for Life Campaign at what he calls "Hell with Doors," the Affiliated Medical Services Abortuary on Farwell Ave. in Milwaukee. He shared his often spoken script that works to engage abortion minded women in conversation. While handing them a beautiful brochure about the growth of a baby in utero he says:

"Hi! My name is Dan. This is for you. (handing a brochure) Are you going to the clinic today? I just want you to know that there is all sorts of free help across the street. (Referring to the Women's Care Center directly across from the abortion mill.)They have free ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests and free well baby care. When your baby is born, they will help you with diapers, clothes, food - whatever it takes to help you say yes to the life of your child. God has a plan for your baby. We will be out here praying for you - if you need someone to talk to - we will be here for you. (As they walk through the door, I say, always adding one to the total) God bless the three of you!"

Dan's practical tips include:

~begin and end in prayer
~personal stories are powerful; if you have one, use it
~dress for the weather
~don't use gory signs
~study and know pro-life literature, have a variety on hand
~counselors should not wear signs
~don't interrupt a sidewalk counselor who is engaged in conversation with an abortion oriented woman
~save the mom and baby first, evangelize later
~don't deliver your message in a condemning tone
~don't yell and don't tell them that they are going to hell-you don't know that
~when engaged in a conversation, ignore the rest of the world
~offer your effort to God whether you see tangible results or not
~if an abortion oriented parent tells you to go away, respect that
~don't get arrested
~be spiritually prepared to be an effective witness; pray
~know where your nearest Crisis Pregnancy Center is located
~a smile goes a long way

Most striking to me of all the things he said was that he had only begun his involvement with 40 Days for Life a little over a year ago and when he was first invited by a friend to pray outside of the abortion mill his immediate answer was "I'd rather have all four wisdom teeth pulled than to pray outside of an abortuary!" Today, he is a giant in the pro-life movement spending days on end praying for an end to abortion and working to save the lives of innocent babies and improve the lives of women in crisis pregnancies as well as those who work in the abortion industry.

The words offered by Lisa Sommers were both practical and uplifting. She said, "The most important thing to remember about women who are coming to the clinic for an abortion and those who work in the abortion industry is that their soul could be in danger. We need to see them as our brothers and sisters. There is really only one enemy and that is the devil. Abortionists really believe that they are helping women, unfortunately, the way they go about it is wrong. The abortionists are not our enemy. We need to pray for them and care for them, too. It's really a spiritual battle and on the sidewalk, we are building bridges."

Lisa says that the most important thing to remember when speaking to a woman who is leaving the abortuary is that you should never touch her. She was just violated in the most horrendous and violent way and she does not want to be touched, even lovingly. Also, never say, "I know how you feel," because you can't possibly know how she feels, instead, be supportive of her feelings.

According to Lisa when we show up at the abortion mill, we should pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through us; to dance on our tongues. Ask the women, "What's happening? What's going on in your life? What's your plan for after this abortion? How are you going to deal with this afterward, who are you going to talk to? Will your problems go away or not? What are you going to do? Is there something I can help you with?" Asking open-ended questions and encouraging the women to speak with us is the most helpful and important thing we can do while witnessing at an abortion mill.

I am so grateful that I attended the Sidewalk Counseling session, it was definitely time well spent. If you happen to live in the Milwaukee area, the session will be offered three more times during the month of July. For more information, leave a comment or send me an email and I will be glad to give you the detailed information.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Forgotten at the Altar















This morning I arrived at church for 7 AM daily Mass, expectant with the joy of celebrating the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By ten after seven, it was evident that the priest who had been scheduled for Mass would not be arriving. What would we do without Sister Doris who efficiently led all seventy daily Mass attendees in a communion service? By the end of the service, she was just about in tears, telling us how upset she was that there was no Mass on such a holy and special Solemnity.

After the service, I thanked her for leading the communion service, no one else would have known what to do! Then I told her that her obvious love and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus touched me deeply and I shared with her the story of how I came to be especially devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I told her about how I was praying the Sacred Heart Novena last year in anticipation of the Solemnity. On the second day of the of the Novena I had visited my favorite place, the shores of Lake Michigan to spend time in my favorite activity, searching for sea glass. Just as I was getting ready to leave, I spotted a red piece of glass which is extremely rare. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the sea glass was shaped like a heart with a gash in the side. What a beautiful sign of love from God!!! Fr. Don (Bishop Hying) blessed it for me and I wear my sea glass heart on a chain around my neck nearly every day. When I showed it to Sister Doris, we were both in tears, realizing the great and endless love that Jesus has for each and every one of us.

I am so grateful that I will have the opportunity to attend Eucharistic Adoration today to pray for all priests on this World Day of Prayer for Priests and for the opportunity to attend Mass tonight at the home of friends who have a monthly Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayer Group with confession, rosary and Mass in their lovely home chapel. I will be praying that Jesus will never again be forgotten at the altar. Won't you join me in my prayer intention?

Jesus, lover of our souls, You long for us to love You and to never forget You, especially at the altar! I am so sorry, my sweet Jesus, for all of the neglect that is shown towards You, especially on this very occasion devoted to your most Sacred Heart! I ask your pardon for our cold hearts and beg you to light the fire of Your love within us all, but especially within the hearts of Your priests whose charge it is to lead so many others to You. Let my love for You be large enough to soften the great hurt You must feel when others forget and ignore You. Amen.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in thee!!!