Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Single Thorn

"Incline your ear, O Lord." Psalm 86:1

I've been contemplating Rogier van der Weyden's Descent From the Cross. Upon close inspection I was struck by the single thorn that pierces Christ's ear. I think of St. Paul's lament about the thorn in his side and the fact that God does not take it away from him despite his triple petition.

Could this one single thorn within the ear of Christ represent a single sin, an evil passion that afflicts our individual souls, the one sin that bothers us the most, the one of which we long to be rid of once and for all, and yet, there it remains aggravating and irritating us again and again? We know it all too well and lament over our inability to remove it from our hearts on our frequent trips to confession. We whisper it to the priest thinking this must be the last time that particular sin will prick our souls and yet, it comes back to tempt us over and over, just when we think we're finally rid of it.

We beg God to remove it; this one, persistant thorn of sinfulness among many great sins, the one that is perhaps the most bothersome source of both our suffering and that of the Lord. And yet the thorn remains, continuously penetrating his ear just as it jabs our conscience. So knowing that on our own we can do nothing, we persistantly offer prayers of supplication begging Him to help us remove it and begin the healing of the wound.

O Lord, incline your ear and take our sin-our selfishness, our pride, our vanity, our lust, our greed-take it all! Listen to how we are distressed by our offenses because they are a source of suffering to you and relieve us of the sharp pain that is caused by our sin. Free us from the stabbing burdens of sin that plague us so that we may peacefully live in Your love. Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prayer, Penance and a Pledge

I'm still aching over the words I read in The Broken Path, a book written by Judie Brown from the American Life League, about her concern that the Bishops in our Church don't do enough to defend life. Her views have certainly not been my experience where I see many examples of leaders in the Church who consistently and bravely stand up for life in every aspect on a daily basis. Just this past weekend I was greatly encouraged by the many events that were held and the words spoken in defense of life by the bishops, priests, deacons and other church leaders in Milwaukee and I hope to always hold that promising spirit within my heart; the spirit that all will be well, that we all do our best for one another and that the Catholic Church is a church in love with life. I am proud to share these few examples of the wonderful ways in which the Church in Milwaukee upholds the sanctity of life, knowing that this is just a small sample of all of the wonderful things that are done by the leaders of the Catholic Church throughout the world to defend, protect and nurture the sanctity of life.


I had the opportunity to chaperone at the "Ignite" Youth Rally for Life in Milwaukee this past Friday. Over 700 beautiful and brave teens from throughout the state of Wisconsin gathered on a snowy evening to pray and witness to the sanctity of life. For many of those teens their time in Milwaukee was only a short visit before journeying on to the March for Life in Washington, DC. The evening included Mass with Archbishop Listecki and a talk by Vicki Thorn, the founder of the National Office for Post-abortive Reconcialiation and Healing and Project Rachel. Vicki's talk which received a standing ovation from the teens was followed by a Holy Hour led by Bishop Hying after which he powerfully spoke about his own personal experiences in the defense of life. He shared one of his favorite gospel passages about St. Peter stepping out of the boat and compared it to his own life and said:

"In 1989 after I had only been ordained to the priesthood for a year and half I had seen a great many men and women whose lives were shattered by abortion, a scourge that damaged families and scarred lives.

The Lord put it on my heart that I had to get out of the boat and do something about it. So along with five parishioners, I took a large crucifix and we processed to a nearby abortion mill; one of four in Milwaukee at the time. I was scared to death and didn't know what to expect. We watched women come out of the clinic. Some of them had only been there for a consultation appointment, but others were coming out after having had an abortion. Those that had just aborted their babies were carrying little brown bags and they looked dazed with dead eyes. I realized that with each abortion it was two lives that were lost-that of the baby and of the mother.

Hatred was poured upon us at that clinic and many people were arrested. I always thought "I can't get arrested, I have a wedding at 2 O'clock!"

One day I went inside the clinic and put green scapulars inside the furniture. The clinic closed shortly after that(not because of the scapulars)and then something beautiful happened. The clinic was made into a pediatric medical clinic that healed lives instead of taking them away.

In the 1990's I prayed that God would raise up a vast army to defend life and here you all are!You are not the Church of the future, you are the Church of the now. You are meant to do something beautiful that no one else can. Fall in love with God. When you do, you won't count the cost because there are no limits to love. When a man and woman are in love they don't say "I already kissed you five times this week, I'm not going to kiss you anymore." And God doesn't say "I already made the sun shine long enough, I'm tired of that."

When you fall in love with God you will step out of the boat and defend life again and again without growing tired and here you are doing just that."

And his words were met with a roar of applause and a standing ovation and I pray that each of those teenagers that were on their way to Washington DC carried his words in their heart and vowed then and there to step out of the boat and swim into the deep wherever and however they were needed to bring God's love to the world.


In the Sunday, January 22nd bulletin at my parish, St. Matthias, Fr. Dave Cooper wrote:

"The weekend marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in the United States. Our Bishops have asked us to offer thanks for the gift of human life and to pray that all people would protect human life from the time of conception to the moment of death with dignity. Catholics have always been and continue to be pro-life; and that must be more than pro-birth. We want every child conceived to have the opportunity for life as we do. But we also want to protect human life from the ravages of war; from poverty and the lack of education, healthcare, food, employment, and everything considered necessary by our Catholic teaching for life with dignity. For those reasons we also oppose euthanasia and the death penalty."


On Sunday evening my parish was one of ninety parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that held Holy Hours for Life led by the deacons of the Archdiocese. I was deeply moved to have the opportunity to silently kneel in prayer before our Eucharistic Lord with fellow parishioners and listen as Deacon Dave Sommers spoke profoundly using American Sign Language about the value of all human life, sharing his personal experience of the great joy he felt when his first daughter was born.


Our Monday morning daily Mass became a Mass for the Sanctity of Human Life led by our Associate Pastor, Fr. Paul, who lovingly spoke about the gift we have in following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI in valuing both our Catholic faith and the gift of life.


Finally, on Monday night in honor of the National Day of Prayer and Penance, the seminarians from St. Francis de Sales Seminary led a rosary for life prior to a Respect Life Liturgy led by Archbishop Listecki. Although the beautiful St. Jerome Parish where the Mass was held is on the outskirts of the diocese and was a 45 minute drive from my home, all of my children were willing to join me in this important prayer and when we arrived at the church we found it to be packed with others from the Archdiocese who felt an important call to attend this Mass and pray for the sanctity of life.

In his homily and in his closing remarks Archbishop Listecki spoke about how abortion is the social justice issue, for without life nothing else matters and he spoke about how he had always been involved in the pro-life movement since his days as a transitional deacon. He said, "You have my pledge to continue to lead the Archdiocese in pro-life efforts." And before everyone left to view the many pro-life displays and share ideas with others in the pro-life movement, Lydia LoCoco, who is the director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation, summed up the weekend events and the final evening with these words: "You matter. Prayer matters. This Mass matters." I couldn't agree more. I am so grateful to be a part of a Church and an Archdiocese that puts the sanctity of life first and foremost, and has done and will continue to do everything it possibly can to protect and care for all of human life from conception to natural death.

I encourage you to visit the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website to view Bishop Hying's uplifting video where he offers suggestions on how you can help the pro-life efforts of the Church, read Lydia LoCoco's blog "Feed the Flames" about how the youth of today are involved in the pro-life movement and Archbishop Listecki's Living Our Faith reflection on Roe v. Wade.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Just Can't Take It Anymore!-A Book Review and Giveaway

"I bet I can make you smile!" So says author Anthony DeStefano, about his latest book, I Just Can't Take It Anymore! due to become available on the first of February. And in fact, with this sweet and simple book he does indeed make me smile!

In the past I've had the great honor of reading and reviewing his children's book Little Star as well as The Invisible World which was a great look into the unseen presence of the spiritual realm within our lives. When he offered to send me a copy of his newest book, I Just Can't Take It Anymore, and asked me to read and review it, I was quick to agree!

The book is charming and inspiring; a fast and easy read that certainly did put a smile on my face and it's sure to put a smile on your face as well! The pictures are adorable and the message is loving and uplifting. It would be a perfect gift for a friend who is struggling through a difficulty, and although the message is intended for adults, with it's colorful and cute photographs of children, it would make a nice and loving read-aloud for a young person facing one of the many trials of childhood as well.

As an additional gift, the author has sent me a second copy of the book to share with you-the faithful readers of Imprisoned in my Bones! If you would like a chance to receive your own copy, please send me an email or leave a comment below and I will enter your name in a drawing. I will ask my daughter Mary to draw the names of all of those who show an interest in the book on February 1st, the date that I Just Can't Take It Anymore! becomes available for purchase. Good luck to all who enter!

To read more about the book, to read sample pages and to order your own copy, click here.

The God of the Snowy Field-A Guest Post by Susi Kurek

(My friend Susi is the volunteer coordinator for Catholic Charities in Milwaukee and she has a beautifully poetic soul which she generously shares here.)

Three inches of week-old snow covered the field in front of me. The numbers on the dashboard flashed, warning me that the outside temperature registered at three degrees. Better take the long way home tonight so that the motor is warm before I shut down for the night. I stared out of the window at the tall reed-like dry grasses standing in the snowy field. The stalks were bent with the wind, leaning away from the gusts. The snow formed petite hillocks at the base of each clump of reeds, making the landscape look lonely and barren.

I often feel as if I am one of those dry reeds. Temptations and troubles buffet me and I bend and sway with them like tall grasses in the wind. Those temptations deposit the snows of sin and guilt at my feet and I am anchored in problems caused by my own failings. It’s a cold, lonely and godless place.

The thought of me being compared to a tall, thin reed makes me laugh! I am exactly the opposite of tall and thin! Then why can’t I be stronger against the blustery blast of temptation? I need to be stalwart and steadfast, unwavering in the blast of Satan’s enticement.

Another thought passes through my mind as the car warms enough to safely drive: if we lean away from one thing, we are also leaning toward another. When I flee wrongdoing, I tend to run frantically toward God, as a frightened child runs toward its mother. I seek the comfort of my Parent, needing to be held and reassured. Feeling warmth creeping through my being, I’m not sure whether it’s the car heater or the knowledge that God is always there to forgive, encourage and love. I prefer the latter.

As I drive home, I ponder God’s infinite love and what God has in store for me. St. Teresa tells us that we should be content to know that we are exactly where God wants us to be. I don’t feel that comfort right now. Is it just me? Am I in transition? Your will, Lord, not mine. I’ll lean towards you.

More snow is due tomorrow. I vaguely consider that even with another seven inches added to that field, the dry stalks of grass will still be visible above the blanket of new snow. We may be dry from lack of grace, the winds of temptation may howl, sin may leave our souls in a wintry chill, but we need to stay firmly rooted in our faith. We also should stand tall in our faith, keeping our heads above the lures of evil. It’s easier to see God that way!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ten Minutes

“O let me plead with you, dear ones, to spend at least ten minutes after Mass—I am making this the absolute minimum, ten minutes—and ask Jesus to teach you to realize the personal, intimate character of His Love, to realize the predilections He has shown for you, drawing you to His Heart and giving you the privilege in Holy Communion of resting on the Heart of Uncreated Love.”
~Father Gerald Fitzgerald, s.P.

Last month in my Oblate formation lesson from the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, I found the above direction from Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald,sP, to spend ten minutes in a silent prayer of thanksgiving following each Mass, to be quite daunting, and I wrote to Mother Marietta about my difficutly with that request and shared my letter to her here on this blog with these words:

"I usually have no problem dwelling in silent prayer after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and I cherish those few precious minutes that I have alone with Him, but I need to look at how I can stretch that minute or two to a full ten minutes after Mass is over. I see that I have a lot of work to do in this regard and I know that it will require a change of habit and a change of heart as well."

After only one attempt to stay after Mass in prayer which was interrupted with visits from other parishioners and the sound of the priest locking the Church doors which prompted me to shorten my ten distracted minutes and leave the Church sooner than I had planned, I gave up even trying to stay with the Lord for ten minutes and put the thought of it out of my mind.

Then I received the next lesson from Mother Marietta, HPB. This lesson which I am currently reading and reflecting upon is centered on the Holy Eucharist and again in this lesson I found the same words from Fr. Fitzgerald pleading for those ten minutes after Mass. I felt disheartened because I knew that there is no way around it, God is calling for me to spend that time with Him each day and I cannot refuse.

I was surprised to find that I almost felt a repulsion to spend that time with the Lord and I looked for excuses as to why I couldn't do it such as having to give up my exercise time and how it might look to others who already see me as quite over the top in my faith and I wondered if I should abandon my dream to become an Oblate of the Precious Blood, thinking that this one simple request for a short period of time each day was one request too many upon my already burdened shoulders. I wondered if possibly, this wasn't the right time in my life for me to embark upon this new and holy endeavor.

I spoke with my husband and children about it and those dear ones encouraged me to continue on the path and helped me to think of ways that I could fit ten extra minutes of prayer into my daily schedule. They assured me that my fears about how my extra time in church would look to others were unfounded. They reminded me that I have always told them not to worry about what others think of them, but to be leaders in the faith, doing what they know is right despite the taunting and teasing of others. Sometimes we need others to remind us of the advice we give when we ourselves are the ones in need of advice!

So today, after Mass and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Devotions, I kissed Jack and Mary good bye as they headed off to school, and I fell back to my knees to begin spending ten minutes with the Lord. I closed my eyes and soon the voices of everyone else who had been at Mass drifted away and I was alone with Jesus. When I opened my eyes once again, I found that the lights had all been turned out and the only light that shone was the flickering candle beside the tabernacle and the devotional candles on either side of the church. Then I saw a man enter the side door, bow to the tabernacle, stand in prayer for a short time before bowing once again and leaving. I thought that he must have been a school parent who simply could not come near the church without coming in to spend a few short minutes with the Lord and my heart was uplifted by his prayerful presence.

Shortly after he left, a woman from the bereavement committee came in to prepare the church for a funeral and I looked at my watch and found that 15 minutes had passed. I left the church and began the treacherous drive to work through the ice and snow and I thought about my mother and her final days on this earth.

"Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." ~Matthew 26:38

When my mom was in the hospital recovering from a second surgery to remove a brain tumor, my son Jack, who was six months old at the time, and I, went to visit her. We only had a few short minutes to spend with her because my husband was expecting us back home. With that short visit we were able to bring a little bit of needed joy to my mom. She was especially pleased to be able to see her beloved grandson whose smile lit up the room. She told us that she was very frightened and lonely and begged us to stay a little longer but I refused because something (which to this day I cannot remember what) was very important at home and we needed to be there. It was the last time that I saw my mother alive. Shortly after we left she developed a headache and slipped into unconciousness from which she never recovered. She died three days later on Mother's Day. I have always regretted the fact that my mother needed me in her final days of life and I refused her my presence for something that was clearly so unimportant that I can't even remember what it was.

So tomorrow I will remain with the Lord for ten minutes after Mass, just resting in His love with a heart full of gratitude for the great gift of His Eucharistic Body. And I will do so again and again, day after day. Jesus is begging me to stay with Him to relieve some of His fear and loneliness and there is nothing that is more important than answering His desire for my company with a short and thankful visit after Mass.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Open Up the Roof

"Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him." ~Mark 2:4

Each day as I spend a few early morning moments in prayer with the daily readings before I attend Mass, I pick out one line to reflect upon throughout the day. Some days that line becomes more meaningful to me than others and the words of scripture with which I have prayed come back frequently as a gentle reminder of God's presence in my life. Yesterday's gospel reading from Mark contained one line, "open up the roof" that seemed to make a particular impact upon me.

My weekends are usually unbelievably busy and this weekend in particular was exceptionally packed with activity. Within our family schedule we had seven basketball games which included my required 8 volunteer hours in the concession stand all to be managed around the weekend work schedules of my husband and I and our three oldest sons and our son Justin's Confirmation retreat, a funeral,a birthday party and the seasonal chore of snow removal. Sometimes it is really difficult to get everyone where they need to be when we are scattered into so many places at once and even with four drivers in the house we still only have two cars so our busy weekends end up being a combination of divide/carpool/conquer!

And somehow, in the midst of all that chaos, I was able to open my roof and allow God to find his way in and to make a profound impact on my life.

On Friday afternoon I raced from work to the funeral of Pat Jakus, a friend of mine from Roses for Our Lady. Pat was such a beautifully holy and energetic woman who always gave her all for God and even the way she died was a testimony to the joys that God offers to those who love Him. Pat was a lector at her parish and last week while offering her service as a lector during a funeral Mass at her parish, she proclaimed this beautiful passage:

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:38

Then she looked over to the priest, offered a big smile, and as she proceeded to climb the steps to the choir loft she suddenly felt tired and out of breath. She sat on the bottom step, rested her head against the wall and died while the choir was singing "Alleluia."

What a beautiful way for Pat, or for anyone, to die! Clearly Pat lived her life with her roof wide open and so even in her death it was easy for Jesus to find His way into her heart.

Later that night, with thoughts of Pat and the funeral still working through my mind and heart, I was serving up hot dogs and popcorn at my son Jack's basketball game while two teams were battling it out on the court. The sounds of shoes squeaking, fans cheering and coaches calling out plays were ringing through the air. The plays that the coaches call are usually the names of college basketball teams, but at one point I was sure I heard a coach call out "God's will!" Maybe it was just my over-tired imagination having it's way with me at the end of a long day but I thought whether or not that was actually what the coach said, "God's will" would be the perfect name of a play for shouldn't we all plan out every action of our lives with God's will as the ultimate playbook behind our movements? And so the words that I imagined the coach to say became a reminder to me to keep my roof open at all times to allow the will of God to reach me.

I was feeling a bit of sorrow that I wasn't able to convince my boss to let me have Saturday morning off from work because there was a big pro-life rally planned in our Archdiocese and I had really wanted to attend, as if I didn't already have enough going on this weekend! So when I awoke on Saturday morning and opened my email, I found a message from our local 40 Days for Life leader inviting early arrivals to come pray at the abortion mill as there was word that a 14 year-old-girl might be coming for an abortion today. I wanted to open my roof and respond.

My oldest son John was my designated car-pool ride to work, so he and I left home early so that we could spend some time praying at the abortion mill before I would have to leave for work. We arrived at the abortuary at 7:15 AM dressed for the arctic tundra as the temperature was only 16 degrees outside. (Hard to believe that it had been an unseasonably 60 degrees just a few days before!) When we arrived we were the only ones at the clinic but we were soon joined by a woman and three men holding signs. Just before we left, three clinic employees arrived ready to begin the work of death. All morning while at work, my heart remained in those frigid temperatures outside the abortion clinic praying for that young, pregnant girl and all of those affected by abortion including those three employees who seemed so cheerful about beginning their work day. And I prayed, "Dear God, open the roof of the hearts of the abortion mill employees and those seeking an abortion to allow the light of Your love and truth to enter in!"

It seems so strange to consider the differing locations of a beautiful funeral, a rowdy basketball game and a desolate place of death as places where God's will can be heard and acted upon equally and yet this weekend I found it to be very true that it really doesn't matter where we are or what we are doing, if there is joy and love in our hearts and a desire to please the Lord, He will always have His way with us and it is His will that will be accomplished in all things and all ways if we only open our roofs to allow it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ponderings on the Priesthood

While I was still in the hospital after the birth of my fourth son, a woman from church came to give me communion and as she left my room after feeding me the Body of Our Lord, she carelessly said, "Poor thing! Four sons! One day they will all get married and leave you!" I was left a bit dumbfounded, but not enough to leave me without a retort so I shot back, "Who knows? Maybe they'll all become priests and leave me anyway!"

And when my children were small, my only prayer for them was that God would bring them to goodness and holiness. I didn't pray for their success, their intelligence, their popularity, their health or their happiness. Just their holiness. I didn't pray for them to become married or to become priests. I prayed for them to know God's will and to live it.

So when my oldest son, while still at the tender age of ten, announced that he felt called to the priesthood, I was pleased and carefully nurtured his prayer life along, being cautious not to push and doing my best to always let him know that no matter what path he would eventually follow in life, he would always be loved for who he is, my beloved son and God's beloved son, not for what he does with his life.

Now he is actually in the process of applying to the seminary and it feels as though my world has turned upside down. Now why should it feel that way? It's not my vocation, not my life, but still I'd be untruthful if I said that I wasn't a bit unnerved and stressed right along with him as he fills out the application forms and keeps his appointments with doctors, dentists, psychologists and priests for the necessary interviews and poking and prodding required of all applicants to the priesthood.

I can't help but feel overwhelmed by the entire process, by the thought of my oldest son soon to be packing up and leaving home for college of any sort and the worry that it is very possible that his hopes and dreams won't come true and that he won't be accepted to the seminary. I'm challenged by how difficult it is to listen to his worries and his stresses and to not take them as my own.

On New Year's Eve for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, my family and I attended a nearby church that offered an 11:00 PM Mass sponsored by the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate and celebrated by our friend, and family member in our hearts, Fr. Matthew Widder. Fr. Matthew had asked John if he would help as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. John has never participated in this ministry before and watching him offer the Body of Christ to those at Mass, including me, for the very first time, really took my breath away. It was as if I was seeing a vision of his possible future, holding the Body of our Lord in his hands and offering Him to others and my heart felt torn by the mix of sorrow mingled with joy with which it was filled. And then I recalled the following passage from Caryll Houselander's Passion of the Infant Christ:

"A young priest was celebrating his first Mass. In the front of the church his mother and his young brothers knelt. It was easy to know them by their likeness to him-a family of dark, golden-skinned boys, and the mother like them.

When the Mass was ended, and the new priest came back into the sanctuary for the blessing and the kissing of the consecrated hands, the family hesitated shyly, almost paralyzed by wonder and love; and before they could go first (as they should have done) to the altar rails, the crowd had pushed past them, strangers had taken their place. The faithful were flocking around their new shepherd, and his mother and his brothers had become part of the crowd, waiting their turn until the end.

For one moment the young priest looked over the bowed heads into his mother's eyes, and his face shone.

"My mother and my brethren are they who hear the word of God and do it."

Because the priesthood had made him the Christ of the people, he belonged to them; he was their kith and kin, their son and brother, their Christ, their priest at the altar.

People often seem to think of our Lady aggrieved, slighted when this happened to her! I think she and her son looked across the heads of the crowds to one another with just that understanding and gratitude that shone on the faces of the young priest and his mother."

And so I pray that if John will be accepted to the seminary and will prepare for priesthood, that my heart will be as open as that of the Blessed Mother and the mother in this story, that I will understand that this offering up of my son for the good of others is the greatest blessing a mother could ever know. Please hold John in your prayers as he continues this process of discernment and application. And for some really good reading about a mother's hopes for her son, I encourage you to visit the Archdiocese of Milwaukee blog where one of my favorite local writers, Karen Mahoney, courageously shares her hopes for her son, Erin.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Little Liebster

There is a new award going around the blogging world and Theresa at carmelitemom has kindly bestowed it upon Imprisoned in my Bones. The idea behind the award is to recognize "smaller" blogs, those that have less than 200 followers and yet have some endearing quality that would make it a liebster (beloved) blog.

I am so grateful to Theresa for acknowledging me and my blog especially since her blog was one of the very first that I ever found and followed back in April of 2009 when I first set out to write my life story here. Theresa's lovely blog set the standard for Imprisoned in my Bones and today, there's more to my gratitude to Theresa than her lovely blogging skills.

Theresa works as an ultrasound technician in Pennsylvania and it was her that I thought of when my son Joe was preparing for surgery to drain his abcessed lymph node last month, for it was the ultrasound technician at Children's Hospital who kindly offered me the most understanding and compassion when I was at the height of worry about Joe's upcoming surgery. She was a voice of comfort and calm in the storm and I knew that dear Theresa in Pennsylvania must surely be the same comfort for her patients as well. How necessary it is to be the kindness of Christ for others in our varied lines of work for we never know how the anxieties that others carry in their hearts might be calmed by our presence. So thank you Theresa, for this award and thank you for the wonderful work you do to help others!

I would like to pass this Liebchen Award on to five wonderful little blogs that are worthy of more attention and notice for they are all great sources of inspiration. The requirements to the five blogs listed below is that they pass this award on to five more blogs that they love, and include their links, in the hopes that more "little" blogs will be found and recognized for the greatness that they contain.

Ann at the Priest's Housekeeper has a great way with poetry and an ability to find just the right words to encourage others in their faith. I admit that I am a bit jealous of her life's work-how I would love to have the privilege of caring for a priest by keeping his house! I can't imagine a more worthy way to support those who bring Christ to the world than by caring for the little details of the life of a priest!

I've long been a fan of Tom's Do Not Be Anxious. Tom is a caregiver to his elderly mother and in his spare time gives care to all of his readers by encouraging us to be peaceful in the presence of Christ.

I consider Tiffany at Family at the Foot of the Cross to be a spiritual hero. She is both a military veteran and a homeschooling mother to five lovely children. Her blog is filled with examples of the wonderful way she raises her family in the faith while growing into an ever deeper relationship with the Lord.

Fr. Jon Hansen writes Redemptorist Preacher from Saskatchewan and he has recently returned to blogging after a long hiatus brought on by the death of his mother. His daily reflections on the Word of God are a great way to start the day.

Finally, my favorite of all the liebchens I have awarded is to a still very new blog written by my dear and wonderful friend in real life, Mary Anne Urlakis. Mary Anne is a homeschooling mother to eight wonderful children and as if that doesn't keep her occupied enough, she shares her faith through her beautiful reflections on Salve Sancta Mater Dei. After visiting Mary Anne's blog, be sure to pay a visit to her son Kenny's blog, God Alone Sufficeth. Kenny is a fine young man who is discerning a call to the priesthood and he valiantly shares his thoughts on his blog for all to enjoy.

Thanks again, Theresa, for this award and the opportunity to recognize some wonderful little blogs that bring the light of Christ to a worn and weary world searching for a little bit of brightness to warm the way!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Solemnity of the Epiphany-A Reflection by Fr. Christopher Klusman

Each month on the second Sunday, Roses for Our Lady, a group of lay people committed to promoting Marian and Eucharistic devotion in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, prays a beautiful Holy Hour for an increase in good and holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life at St. Francis de Sales Seminary. This past Sunday we were joined by the effervescent and holy Fr. Christopher Klusman, a priest for whom we prayed while he was still in the seminary. Fr. Christopher was ordained to the priesthood last May and since that time he has been a tremendous blessing not only to his parish and the Deaf community in Milwaukee, but also to Roses for Our Lady and all of those who have a deep and sincere devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Fr. Christopher's gospel reflection at our Holy Hour was so touching that I asked him if I could share it on this blog and of course, he agreed. What most moved me was his remark that the wise men didn't just bow or kneel to the infant Christ, but that they prostrated themselves; they worshiped the Lord in the most profound manner possible. I was also inspired by his words about our true vocation: that of a saint.

What follows is Fr. Christopher's moving words to those gathered at the Roses for Our Lady Holy Hour on the Solemnity of the Epiphany:

Reflection on the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12
Solemnity of the Epiphany by Fr. Christopher Klusman

Thank you so much for having me and I always keep you in my prayers for the wonderful ministry that you all do in “Roses for Our Lady.” Your title, “Roses for Our Lady” is beautiful: I often ponder about the famous quote by our dearly beloved saint and doctor of the Catholic Church: St. Therese of Lisieux: “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my Heaven doing good upon Earth.”

This is why we are here… we ask St. Therese, all the saints, and Mary, who is the Queen of Saints, to intercede for us to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

And this brings us to today’s gospel for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord: today’s readings remind us of a “journey.” All of us here are at various parts of our journey here… different vocations, such as sisters, mothers, fathers, teachers, and so forth with their own challenges and joys… To this they would say, “That is wonderful.” But, the one thing that saints aspire you to say (as they would say themselves), is “I want to be a saint!” Many people may think that is not what we should say because they may think you are “conceited.” But, that is what the devil wants you to think. The whole meaning of you wanting to become a saint is that it tells people you (and them too) want to be exclusively God’s. This is a great joy… a great journey… a great vocation within our vocations. We desire that all that you say and do sends up a sweet smell of frankincense to God.

Now, the Magi were on their journey and, when they came to see the “newborn King of the Jews,” a remarkable thing that they did was that they didn’t bow or genuflect… they prostrated themselves! Their laying on the ground is a sign of complete obedience, submission, and reverence to Jesus, as priests, sisters, and professed people would do!

Their prostration tells us their message that Jesus is our King, our Everything. You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other. King Herod told them before seeing Jesus that they are to come back to my way. The fact that the Magi avoided Herod’s way proved that what the Magi saw in Jesus is real, profound, and worth the sacrifice!

St. Ambrose, who was one of the people responsible for the conversion of St. Augustine (changing his way), beautifully said, “The star is the way, and the way is Christ; and according to the mystery of the incarnation, Christ is a star. He is a blazing and a morning-star. Thus where Herod is, the star is not seen; where Christ is, there it is again seen, and points out the way.”

As from Mary, at Fatima on a rainy day, she gave the message to pray the rosary every day. Then, she rose toward the east and turned the palms of her hands to the dark sky: the rains stopped and the dark clouds obscured the sun, which is also a big star. Then, the sun burst through and the “Miracle of the Dancing Sun” happened in front of about 70,000 people. Then, St. Joseph appeared with the Child Jesus with Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. Which is almost like today’s Nativity!

So, as a result, thousands were converted to the Way, Who is Jesus. Following the ways of King Herod makes the Sun/Son of God disappear. Following Jesus at all times keeps the Sun/Son of God with us always. In all that we do and say in our journey here on Earth, we aspire to say, “I want to be a saint.” I want to be able to send down a shower of roses because like St. Paul said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Jesus, the Sun, the Star, the Light of our lives, gave Himself up for us and we pray for the same desire to give up ourselves by prostrating to Him that any journey that leads us to Christ through Mary is all the worthwhile. As it is said, to have Jesus is to have Everything. God bless you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

How 'Bout Those Cardinals?

Did you really think this was going to be a post about baseball? Nah-you all know me better than that-but it's those OTHER Cardinals that have my heart aflutter with joy today and in particular the one and only +Timothy Cardinal Dolan! What a thrill for those of us in Milwaukee to see our beloved former Archbishop elevated to such a high status, but of course, we all knew it was a sure thing! And my coworkers who are familiar with my frequent gushing about Archbishop Dolan and my standard line-"I love that guy!" were all rejoicing with me today at work even though none of them share my Catholic faith. His blog post about his new appointment is a beautiful example of his humility and holiness.

So I'm feeling sentimental and want to share my favorite +Timothy Cardinal Dolan story-I'm sure I've shared this one here before, but humor me, won't you?

It was the eve of my daughter Mary's First Holy Communion when the phone rang. I answered the phone and heard a man's voice on the other end asking to speak with my daughter. I nonchalantly handed the phone to Mary as if my then six-year-old daughter (she made her First Communion while in the first grade as she had begged to make her first confession while still in kindergarten) got phone calls every day. Mary spoke on the phone for a few minutes and it wasn't until after she had hung up that I finally asked her who was on the phone.

"Oh," she answered, "That was Archbishop Dolan. He told me congratulations on my First Communion." And with that she skipped back to her bedroom to play.

And I was left kicking myself for not asking who it was in the first place and talking with him myself for a while! After all, it's not every day that the Archbishop calls your house!

And my new favorite memory is this lovely letter that he sent to my son John just last week in response to a letter John sent to him as part of a homework assignment. It's beautiful and touching and you can read it here.

Congratulations +Timothy Cardinal Dolan! We are all so proud of you here in America and we are confident that the Catholic Church is in the best and holiest of hands under your guidance!

Baptized in Christ-A Homily by Fr. Dan Murphy

As always, those who attend daily Mass at St. Matthias are treated to a fabulous homily whenever Fr. Dan Murphy celebrates Mass with us and today was no exception. Please enjoy his comforting and uplifting words:

“You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased."
-Mark 1:11

Today, most commercial airplanes rely on a radio beam. A directional beam is sent out to guide the airplane to its destination. As long as the pilot keeps on this beam, he knows he’s safe. He's safe even if he has to go thru fog and clouds in the darkest night. As soon as the airplane gets off the beam there’s great danger.

We see that Jesus had a beam that kept him safe and on the right course. After he had received the baptism of John, three things happened to Jesus: The skies opened: The Spirit descended in the form of a dove; And a voice from heaven was heard.

Throughout the gospel, we notice that Jesus has to take time out to pray. There may be people who need to be cured; the apostles may need to be taught, Jesus himself may need to sleep and rest. But all these necessary things, all these good things will have to wait because Jesus needs to get back on the beam, Jesus needs to pray.

If prayer was so necessary for Jesus, how much more necessary is it for me and for you? We can see ourselves going off the beam when we start to notice that we’re afraid; afraid of the future, afraid of the unknown, afraid for our health; afraid of being afraid.

We start going off the beam when we stop praying. Maybe your prayers aren’t being answered the way you think they should. Maybe you just don't have a taste of prayer or you find yourself in a period of dryness when God seems far, far away.

In all these situations, you need to get quickly back on the beam by quietly dedicating some time to God, if only 10 minutes a day. Let God's presence find your soul. Let God's love and intelligence take over; give God a chance to keep the promise he made in Psalm 46: "Be still and know that I am God". You’ll know you’re back on the beam when daily prayer is as much a part of your life as eating, breathing or sleeping.

What happened for Jesus at prayer will happen for you. First the skies opened. As you become more faithful to prayer, you can expect the skies to open and let more sunshine into your life and those around you. You’ll surprise yourself when you notice that you’re more optimistic and hopeful than you used to be. The second thing that happened to Jesus will also happen to you. The Holy Spirit descended on him. You’ll have a power within you to face and conquer the challenges of life. You’ll also encourage your neighbors and friends to trust in God's power. This is the action of the Spirit in your life and it happens when you’re a person of prayer.

Finally, for Jesus, the voice was heard: “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased!” Jesus needed to hear that encouraging voice often. And so do you. There are so many forces within and without that try to tear you down, to make you believe that you don’t count. The psychologists are unanimous in stating that most of the crimes committed in America are not because people have too high an opinion of themselves, but exactly the opposite; they’re due to a very low self-esteem.

When you and I were baptized, many years ago, it was announced to us, our families and the world that we are children of God. If we were baptized as little babies, we were told before we could even understand it, that we were very special in the eyes of God. That’s still true. I, for one, need to hear those special words every day. How about you?

“You are my beloved son; my beloved daughter.
With you I am well pleased."

Monday, January 2, 2012

War Horse and Fr. William Doyle, SJ

My family and I took a few hours this weekend to relax at the movies and we chose to see Steven Spielberg's War Horse, an epic story about a young English man, Albert and his horse, Joey, who served during World War I. It was an excellent movie, a touching story with beautiful scenery and an even more beautiful animal. The war scenes were a bit intense which I imagine was the reason for the Pg-13 rating as the rest of the movie was very family friendly. I was deeply moved and cried throughout the entire show. My favorite scene was that of a priest distributing communion in the trenches before battle. My son Justin, who was sitting on the other side of Jack, reached across Jack to nudge me wanting to be sure that I noticed the priest in the movie. I was certain that the priest was a portrayal of Fr. William Doyle, SJ, who was an Irish priest who served as a front line chaplain during World War I. The wonderful book, Merry In God, is a collection of his journals and letters written during the war and it offers great insight into the horrors of that war and the beauty of the soul of a holy priest who served God and his fellow soldiers very well. To learn more about Fr. William Doyle, visit this blog, Remembering Fr. William Doyle, SJ.

What follows is a beautiful prayer for priests written by Fr. Doyle:

Prayer for Priests by Fr. William Doyle, SJ

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar, "This is my Body, this is my Blood," grant them to apply to themselves: "I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another."

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.

And, another of his breathtaking prayers:

"O Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Who would not love You, who would not give their heart's blood for You, if only once they realized the depth and the breadth and the realness of Your burning love? Why not then make every human heart a burning furnace of love for You, so that sin would become an impossibility, sacrifice a pleasure and a joy, virtue the longing of every soul, so that we should live for love, dream of love, breathe Your love, and at last die of a broken heart of love, pierced through and through with the shaft of love, the sweetest gift of God to man."

"I must eagerly welcome every little pain, suffering, small sickness, trouble, cross of any kind, as coming straight to me from the Sacred Heart. Am I not your loving victim, my Jesus?"

The Inexhaustible Cup

My friend Christi, the talented iconographer, painted this wonderful icon of the Inexhaustible Cup and sent it to me shortly before Christmas, and it was this image of our Blessed Mother and Jesus that brought me much comfort during my son Joe's recent illness and hospital stay.

Our Lady is revered in Russia under this title as an advocate for alcoholics and all those struggling with addictions. She is shown as tirelessly raising her hands in prayer as her Son stands within the chalice of suffering. During Joe's five day stay at the hospital, he, like Christ, was accepting his suffering with peace and joy while I, like the Blessed Mother, remained nearby with my hands raised in prayer for his healing. And God heard my prayer of petition and Joe's offering of suffering, for the Lord never tires of listening to our prayers and as an answer he sent us great and never-ending love that we greedily consumed knowing that her cup which holds the Lord is truly inexhaustible, and the Lord is always ready to give of himself, to give us His Body and Blood over and over again so that we may truly live.

It was a great blessing that my son who had required surgery to drain an infected lymph node behind his neck muscle was able to put off that surgery until after Christmas Day and was able to return home from the hospital five days later, in time to spend the New Year holiday and Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God with his family in the comfort of our home. During the time that he was hospitalized our family was showered with love and prayer from friends and family like we have never known before. Four days later, I am still in awe and wonder at the beauty that shines through the trials of illness, at the goodness of God that dwells within the hearts of so many and of the great love that exists within this world. Like the love that flows from the Inexhaustible Cup, my love and gratitude flows as well.

I am grateful for:

~lessons of love learned in illness and restored health for Joe
~a good-natured son who smiled his way through his entire hospitalization and didn't complain, not even once
~family and friends from church who brought meals to our house to sustain our family during a hectic week spent mainly at the hospital
~our friend Anne L. and her son Michael who providentially came to keep vigil with us during the surgery; that friendly visit at that particular time helped to distract us from our worry and made the 90 minute surgery time pass pleasantly by
~Fr. Peter Berger and Fr. Dave Cooper who both came to anoint Joe prior to surgery
~Fr. Matthew Widder, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, and Bishop Hying who came to visit and pray with Joe during his hospital stay
~the steady stream of friends and family who came to visit and to offer cheer
~an ultrasound technician who was a great source of comfort and peace during the height of worry over the unknown
~facebook and email which became easy ways to share updates about Joe's progress with many concerned family and friends all at once
~offers of prayer and words of comfort and kindness from so many people that I could easily have lost track of them all, but I won't, I will remember and be grateful for each and every one
~the knowledge that we are so loved by God through the goodness of others
~home again and cooking and baking for my family-how I love spending time in the kitchen!
~playing games of Trouble and Scrabble with my family
~ushering in the New Year with Mass and receiving a kiss of love from Jesus in the Holy Eucharist at the stroke of midnight
~driving to three different Adoration Chapels before finding an open door to our Lord and quietly kneeling before Him, giving Him my all-sometimes the Lord is hard to find but He is always more than worth the effort!
~watching Jack and Mary work to make an ice-skating rink in our backyard
~repeating my winter mantra "Shut the door-the heat's on!" again and again
~Archbishop Dolan's wonderful response to my son John's letter of inquiry here

How has the Inexhaustible Cup shown her never ending love for you? Join with Ann at A Holy Experience to share your gratitude with multitudes on Monday.