Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Visitation

“How can this be, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43

The Feast of the Visitation (May 31st) is a perfect example of friendship. Here two great and holy women have incredible and amazing news to share. Mary and Elizabeth rush to be together and their human love for one another escapes from their hearts and becomes a united prayer of love and gratitude to God. They recognize that the holiness, the goodness, and the joy of their friendship comes from God alone and together they celebrate the miracle of the beginnings of new life welling up within their bodies.  Life seems inexplicably beautiful.

Continue reading this post on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee home page...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fr. Ryan Pruess

"Because through the mystery of the Word made flesh, the new light of your splendid beauty has shone upon the eyes of our mind:  so knowing God visibly, we might be snatched up into a love of things unseen."  ~Preface I of the Nativity of the Lord as quoted on Fr. Ryan Pruess' ordination holy card

It was several years ago at St. Francis de Sales Seminary's annual Rector's Dinner, a classy event that raises funds for the seminary, when a certain young seminarian first came to my attention.  During the dinner a large screen displays pictures of the current seminarians.  Each time Ryan Pruess' picture came up on the screen, a table filled with his family and friends would let out a big "whoop!" as if they were at a sporting event rather than at a formal dinner.  I knew that this was no ordinary seminarian for whom the cheers were offered and I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to meet someone so extraordinary.  And God saw fit to see to it that I would.

Over the next few years as I not only came to know Ryan, but also came to consider him to be a dear friend, I found an  understanding for the boisterous cheers of those who had already known and loved him.  Here is a man who who has a genuine love and concern for others.  He is a hard-working and dedicated Catholic who puts his all into everything he does and clearly has a passionate love for the Church.  He goes above and beyond what is expected of him to bring joy, happiness and holiness into the lives of everyone he meets.

Along with seminarian Kurt Krauss, Ryan was the co-founder of The Remnant, a gathering of young men who are passionate about the Church and sports.  The Remnant called together high school boys to pray and perform at various times throughout the year for weekend camps which highlighted basketball, football and soccer.  These popular camps gathered young men from all across the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and, together they enjoyed the sports that they loved, while also increasing their love for the Catholic faith through Catholic spirituality talks, Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.  Ryan's magnetic and loving personality made the Remnant Camps highly enjoyable and deeply meaningful for those in attendance.

As a man convicted of his faith and his call to the priesthood, Ryan works hard to assure that those who struggle in any way are supported and encouraged.  When my son John wrote a blog post about the challenges of discernment toward the priesthood  Ryan encouraged him with these words:

"You will never know the depth of your own soul, unless you are willing to climb down deep into it and sit there for a while.  It is there, sitting in the muck and sludge of our own sinfulness, our own humanity, our own brokenness, that we come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ."

Ryan embraces social media and uses it to promote Catholic events throughout the Archdiocese, encouraging others to deeper prayer.  He uses facebook to invite others to prayer events such as the holy hour at St. Francis de Sales Seminary on the eve of his ordination.  The holy hour was beautiful and solemn.  There in the seminary chapel, seminarians, priests and friends of the seminarians gathered in an hour of silent prayer.  I was touched to see each of the ordinandi's chalices on a table in the front of the chapel and I was inspired to pray one of my favorite prayers  from the Handmaids of the Precious Blood:  "Our Lady of the Precious Blood, watch over your living chalices of the Blood of Jesus,"  for Ryan and his classmates who were soon to be ordained.  I am confident that the Blessed Mother heard that prayer and will be watching over the entirety of Ryan's priestly life with a special affection for him.  After the holy hour was over, all of the lay faithful left while the seminarians remained to keep an all night vigil of prayer for the ordinandi.
"Being a seminarian is a great life and I would only trade it for one thing, being a priest."
~Fr. Ryan Pruess

At the Ordination Mass where Fr. Ryan was ordained to the priesthood along with five other men, I was moved to tears at the sight of all of the mothers of the newly ordained priests as they brought up the gifts and one by one stopped to embrace their sons.  But it was the embrace of Fr. Ryan and his mother that really moved me, because as Fr. Ryan reached for his mother, his face was wet with tears and even from my seat near the back of the Cathedral I could see that he was overcome with emotion.  How could I not cry right along with him?

Those motherly tears came back a week later at Fr. Ryan's Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Peter's Parish in Slinger, Wisconsin where Fr. Ryan grew up.  On that warm Pentecost Sunday, St. Peter's Parish was filled to capacity with Fr. Ryan's family and friends who were all honored and overjoyed to celebrate with him.

Fr. Richard Stoffel, the pastor of St. Peter's spoke about the importance of the priesthood.  He said, "The only accurate description of a priest is 'A man of the Holy Spirit.'   A priest should speak words that gather people who want individualism, yet long for inner peace, and who know that peace doesn't come from a disconnectedness;  it comes from discovering how to live with others in love.  A man of the Holy Spirit inspires spirituality in others.  He helps people to discover a fire that unites just as it did when the first disciples gathered in prayer.  A man of the Spirit points out that the Spirit lives in every person and encourages every one to be something beautiful for God."  I am certain that Fr. Ryan is a very effective man of the Holy Spirit and will bring unity and love to every life he touches in his ministry.

At the end of Mass, Fr. Stoffel presented a gift to Fr. Ryan's mother, Sandy.  Her gave her a red rosary and said that it was from "one mom to another."  The rosary had belonged to Fr. Stoffel's mother and it was the rosary that she used to pray for her son.  Now, Fr. Stoffel told Sandy that he was handing on the honor of praying for a priest son to her as he gave her the red beads and told her to use them to pray for Fr. Ryan.  Those tears I shed at the ordination Mass?  Here they were again!  Fr. Stoffel's gift to Fr. Ryan's mother was so tender and touching!

Fr. Ryan's first Mass was followed by a fabulous dinner and dance, a real  party of celebration.  All of those friends of his who whooped and hollered during the Rector's dinner so many years ago were now dining and dancing until late in the evening, rejoicing over the gift of another fabulous priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  But this time, my family and I were joining in with the whooping and hollering and rejoicing and celebrating and we will continue to celebrate the gift of Fr. Ryan Pruess for many years to come.

Congratulations Fr. Ryan and thank you for the gift of your priesthood and the gift of your friendship!  Whoop!!!

( With the exception of the Remnant photo and the ordination photo (courtesy of Richard Zautcke) all photographs in this post were taken by Kathy Kohl, (KK Photography) who is a friend of Fr. Ryan's.  Not only is Kathy an exceptional photographer, but she is also very sweet and kind.  When my family and I arrived for Fr. Ryan's first Mass we found the church to be full to capacity with nowhere to sit.  Kathy had all of her photography equipment spread out on the very last pew but she took one look at my high heels and kindly offered to move her equipment so that we could be seated during the Mass.  Please visit her website and offer her your patronage if you are ever in need of a fabulous photographer.)

For more on Fr. Ryan, visit this link at the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Redeemed- A Book Review

One of my favorite blogs is Heather King's Shirt of Flame.  My beloved Salzmann Library recently acquired Heather King's book, Redeemed, and I just loved it!  My heart was frequently moved and I could relate to so much of what she wrote.  Through the sharing of the story of her life, Heather is a wonderful witness to the joys of Catholicism.  In fact, the entire fifth chapter is a great work of apologetics supporting the teachings of the Church, especially those that are hard for our secular society to accept.

Here are some of the reasons why I so loved Redeemed in the words of the author:

On writing "When I first started writing I was aflame with the notion that finally, finally, I would create! What I didn't realize was that writing would create me....Right from the beginning, writing for me was a religious experience."

"....it's an impossible line of work..And at the same time the only reason you do it at all, or can do it, or want to do it, is because of this incredibly tender heart, this heart you're a little ashamed of, that makes you different enough in the first place that writing is really your only refuge, your only means of enduring the world."

On discovering Catholicism "...as I gazed up at Christ, his head drooping toward his breast, everything in me wanted to move to him, to touch him, to be near.  I saw that like us, he was in pain and he wasn't sure why, whether it would ever end, or what it was for.  I saw he'd come to address the deepest mystery of humankind-the mystery of suffering.  I saw he wasn't saying we were supposed to suffer more than we already were; he was acknowledging the suffering we were already in."

"It seems to me I got one glimpse of  Christ and thought, O my God, can I come?  Am I invited?  Don't leave me out please!  I've felt left out my whole life..."

On suffering "Maybe the ones who suffer more bear it for the rest of us who are too weak and cowardly to bear it.  Five years after 9/11, excerpts from the 1,613 emergency phone calls made from the World Trade Center that morning were released to the public.  Melissa Doi, thirty-two years old, called from the eighty-third floor of the south tower.  When the operator answered, Doi responded, "Holy Mary, mother of God," and continued, "there's no one here yet and the floor's completely engulfed.  We are on the floor and we can't breath and it's very , very hot."  The operator tried to calm her down, but a few minutes later Doi panicked:  "I'm going to die, aren't I?"  she asked.  "No, no, no," the operator replied.  "I'm going to die, Doe repeated.  "Say your prayers," the operator advised.  "Oh God, it's so hot.  I'm burning up," Doe replied.  Several minutes later, the line on her end went silent.  And here's the thing, really, in a way-one of the very few things we have to hold on to:  the operator continued to speak to her for another 20 minutes, "soothingly," according to a Los Angeles Times article, "repeating Doi's name over and over, calling her 'dear.'"

"Holy Mary, mother of God.  Say your prayers, ma'am.  Oh God, it's so hot, I'm burning up...Oh, Osama bin Laden (and let's remember there's a little Osama bin Laden in the best of us), if you were sitting beside this beautiful young woman-because all young women are beautiful, all people are beautiful-if you could see that part in her hair, feel her breath on your hand, maybe you could have seen that if one of us is hurt, we're all hurt.  That whatever hurt has been done to you, this could never set it right. That it's not making fire in the sky and blowing up towers that make you a man.  It's love:  the kind of love where you'd offer yourself up to be incinerated so that someone else wouldn't have to be.  The kind of love where you'd let yourself be nailed to a cross rather than order a brother to kill himself.  The kind of love that says someone's name into the darkness and silence, over and over again, to say that Melissa Doi's life, her death, were not in vain.  Twenty minutes, over and over, into the darkness, the silence, into what I have to believe ascended to, was heard, echoed through the farthest reaches of the cosmos.  Twenty minutes, over and over, one beating heart to another, through the sky above New York, through the heavens, through eternity, until one stopped beating-and the other kept calling out to her anyway."

And in conclusion "What qualifies me to write a book like this-as a human being, as a Catholic?  In a way, nothing.  I could point to almost anyone I know and say they are more tolerant, more patient, more generous, calmer, braver than me.  From the outside my life doesn't look much different than anyone else's, but on the inside it's permeated by Christ-physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  Inside, it's Christ who illumines it, blesses it, enriches it, gives it spiritual water and food and air.  Outside I sit in traffic jams and buy groceries at Trader Joe's; inside, my soul thirsts for him, my flesh "faints" for him, "as in a dry and weary land where there is no water," as the psalmist says (Psalm 63).  To believe in the Transubstantiation is to make my way through the world knowing that someone sweat tears of blood for me in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he died, was scourged for me, carried a heavy cross for me, was crowned with thorns for me, was crucified for me.  That one day, in the cool of the garden, like Mary Magdalene, I will meet him, and cry, "Rabboni!" and fall into his arms, so that every moment on earth is a preparation to be worthy of that.  This is what qualifies me:  I love him."

The Smell of Holiness

It's no secret that I love going to church, but I bet you didn't know that not only do I love the holy pictures, statues and stained glass, the priests,the people and the prayers, and the true presence of Christ, but I also love the smell of the church. When I open the church door and catch a whiff of melted candle wax mingled with a hint of incense from a long ago Mass I feel as if I am breathing in heaven. I'd like to bottle that smell and make it into an air freshener for my home! I'd spray it all over and then wait for my sixteen-year-old son Joe to notice it. Joe often complains that I am too holy and that I pray too much. He says that he feels as if he should genuflect every time he steps into the living room because I have so many pictures of Jesus and Mary in there. With that precious scent of church in my house I am sure he wouldn't be able to stop himself from bending his knee!  And you have to know that I would love that!

Joe also likes to complain about how long it takes for us to pray before meals, he just wants to dig right in without such a lengthy blessing. So when he sent me the link to the video below about "pre-blessed food" I just had to smile. It's classic Joe. Maybe you'll smile, too.  (Click here to view the embedded video.)

Be Joyful!

I love these quotes on the importance of being joyful because they include practical suggestions for keeping a joyful spirit at all times.  They are from a wonderful little book, The Way of Spiritual Childhood, based on the life and teachings of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Fr. Leo Pyzaski, CSSR.  I found them to be a great source of inspiration for me in my efforts to keep a calm and accepting attitude toward all life events no matter how difficult it may be to hold onto joy.  We can never go wrong in trying to imitate the great St. Therese!

"Our God is a God of joy, therefore His children cannot be sad. Piety that is sad and melancholy surely is a false one. Let those who serve the world and feed on its dangerous pleasures grieve, because they will never find happiness here on earth, and will endanger their eternal salvation. The true children of God can and should be almost as happy here on earth as the saints are in heaven. There cannot be any room for sad and gloomy thoughts in the heart that belongs to God and loves Him sincerely."

"Never permit discouragement and dejection to take root in your heart, because they are a great obstacle to your progress in perfection. Let even your sorrow for sins be peaceful and confident. Let the holy joy so abound in you, that it may overflow and flood those who come into contact with you. For this purpose hide your pains if possible from human eyes to retain the full perfume of sacrifice for God alone."

"Guard however, against external manifestations of sadness, which are so detrimental to the happiness of your environment. Through this sort of preoccupation and egoism you are apt to become burdensome to others, but above all you would greatly displease God and retard your union with him."

"You may to a certain degree legitimately give way to sorrow. You are not obliged to pretend happiness, since this would be contrary to simplicity. This does not imply, however, that you may give way to unrestrained sorrow, that you may allow your nature to govern you, because this would be an outburst of your inordinate self-love. Your nature must always be held in check by the higher spiritual faculties."

"Avoid self-concentration in sorrow and remember that affliction is given you rather to withdraw you from your inordinate self. In spite of the acute and the most bitter suffering, bury your mind and heart in God, seek His glory and pleasure, thus you will have a pledge of your true love for God. Self-centering withdraws you from God who should be the center of all your thoughts and yearnings."

"Is it contrary to the principles of perfection to seek consolation in sorrow? By no means! God often visits you with sorrow, with depression and with interior darkness in order to force you to humble yourself before creatures by seeking consolation from them."

Set the World on Fire-by Bishop Donald Hying

"When we, like the saints, set the sail of our life to the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves doing things that we could never have imagined, witnessing to Christ in ways that seemed beyond our abilities and engaged in works of evangelization, charity and service that seemed impossible. One thing is certain. When we give our lives over to the Holy Spirit, nothing will ever be safe or dull again. We will find ourselves blown out to the deep water and then Christ will bid us to get out of the boat." Bishop Donald  Hying

From the first time I read this quote by Bishop Hying several years ago I've been inspired and moved by it and have shared it here on this blog several times.  His latest column that appeared in the Thursday, May 24th issue of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, which I share below, gives depth and a practical approach to the above quote. Let's join Bishop Hying in working to "set the world on fire."  A blessed Pentecost!

I would donate a pile of money to a worthy cause for the privilege to have been a fly on the wall in the Upper Room on the morning of Pentecost! What happened up there? None of the eyewitnesses present passed down a written record for us to know.
To gain insight into the transforming nature of the Holy Spirit, however, we can ponder the change wrought in the apostles through the Pentecost experience. Before they enter the Upper Room, the followers of Jesus are afraid, not sure what to do next, and are silent about their relationship with the risen Christ. Anointed in the power of the Holy Spirit through wind and flame, they emerge into the streets of Jerusalem, unitedcourageous and articulate in their proclamation of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah.
In reflecting on the Pentecost experience as the birth and foundation of the church, we clearly see how the Holy Spirit forms and energizes the evangelizing mission given to us by Christ himself. Only after the Paraclete’s anointing can Simon Peter, who denied even knowing Jesus on Holy Thursday night, look his killers in the eye and proclaim the resurrection to them, not in a condemnatory tone but an invitational one.
So magnetic was Peter’s evangelizing message that morning that 3,000 people were baptized in an explosion of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit of God helped the early church make sense of its experience of Christ and gave it the courage to profess it publically.
We can learn how to better evangelize the world today by reflecting on the Pentecost experience which ignited the great saving mission of the church. One key reason for the extraordinary growth of the early Christian community was its unity.
The first believers gathered around the apostles, celebrated the Eucharist, shared their possessions in common, prayed over the sick, assembled in the temple to praise God, in all things, genuinely loving each other. Paul and Peter may have debated over whether Gentiles had first to become Jews before they could become followers of Jesus, but a deep unity, centered on belief in Jesus as Messiah and Christ and the saving power of his Gospel message, bound the church together in an extraordinary communion.
As Catholics, we seek to build, deepen and live that unity today, within the Catholic Church and with all Christians. Perhaps, the greatest stumbling block to proclaiming the Gospel is the disunity of its adherents. If we cannot live in harmony, peace and love with each other, why should anyone want to join us?
Sometimes, the church feels like a fractured collection of varying political parties with differing candidates, agendas and ideologies. Only by living in deep communion with Christ and fidelity to the church and her teachings, can we discover that profound unity for which Jesus prayed before his death.
The early Christians were courageous in their proclamation of Christ. They knew that the Gospel would not only upset the religious authorities in Israel but also the political authorities in Rome. If Jesus is the Lord and Messiah, then no one else is, not even the Roman emperor. Faith in Christ relativizes and subjects all human power, and there will always be people who will not like that.
The apostles did not fashion their message to the fancies of their audience. They proclaimed the truth of the Gospel, regardless of the consequences, whether they were praised and exalted for it or whether they were tortured and imprisoned. The courage of the early Christians in their conviction to die rather than deny their faith remarkably fueled the growth of the church.
Are we courageous in our embrace of the Catholic faith? Do we live and profess it whether we are revered or reviled for doing so? Can people see in us the amazing courage of Bartholomew and the serene steadfastness of Perpetua and Felicity?
The witnessing power of one disciple of Christ who is willing to sacrifice leisure time, reputation, popularity, money, a job and even life itself for the sake of being faithful to Christ is extraordinary. The lives and deaths of Agnes, Polycarp, Thomas More and the martyrs of El Salvador never fail to stir my vision and inspire my faith.
The Holy Spirit made the apostles articulate in their profession of Christ and the faith. A motley band, composed mainly of uneducated fishermen, became philosophers and theologians who were able to express their religious experience in such a compelling fashion that thousands joined them.
In his conversation with the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip is able to explain the prophet Isaiah in the context of Jesus’ passion and death. Paul unfolds the first theology of Christ and the church in his epistles. John and his followers articulate divine love as the source and center of Christianity. The early church succeeded so well because she could explain what she believed.
We will only evangelize effectively to the extent that we can do the same. Catechesis and adult formation are burning necessities for us if we hope to equip the average Catholic in the pew with such a fundamental grasp of the faith they can articulately witness to Christ and his church in a world that increasingly misunderstands and rejects the proposal of the Gospel.
We cannot afford to neglect the study of our Catholicism if we hope to bring others to belief. This need for religious formation is a key component of our archdiocesan effort to help parishes become dynamic centers of evangelizing activity.
As we celebrate Pentecost this Sunday, may the Holy Spirit compel us to proclaim Christ wherever we find ourselves – in an office, a hospital bed, a restaurant, a gymnasium or a living room – by living in unity, believing with courage and professing with knowledge. The early Christians had no spiritual gifts that we ourselves have not received. Let’s go set the world on fire for Christ!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Holy Hour

"Daughter, when I'm making a holy hour, I am happy!"

My deceased aunt Monica to my cousin Martha when she would tease her mom about her frequent holy hours and say "Mom, I think you're just keeping a happy hour!"

A spiritual practice that is highly recommended by the Handmaids of the Precious Blood for the Oblate Candidates is offering ten minutes of silent thanksgiving after every Mass for the gift of the Eucharist. Last Lent, in an effort to increase the prayer in my "prayer, fasting and almsgiving" I decided to take that ten minutes to 45 minutes, in other words, I stayed in church after daily Mass until I had to leave to go to work.  I quickly came to love that silent time with the Lord and now, nearing the end of the Easter season, I continue to remain in church long after Mass is over.

My daily holy hour has become an occasion of great joy. Most days after the last person leaves from daily Mass I am alone in the darkened church, just me and Jesus and nobody else. I love that! Other days I am joined by the janitor who is lovingly cleaning the church. With the exception of praying the Stations of the Cross, reaching up to touch the marble feet of Christ before I journey to each succeeding station, my prayer is silent, wanting to be able to hear the voice of God speak to me about His will for my life and not wanting to miss it when He softly whispers those words I long to hear... "I love you." On my way out I light a candle for a friend or two, bless myself abundantly with holy water and my day begins in the most perfect way imaginable.

Thursdays are the exception, however. On Thursdays a small crew of volunteers stays behind to clean the church giving God their own gift of love by keeping our place of worship beautifully clean. I watch as a woman replaces burnt out votive candles, another dust mops the floor around the altar and the women whom I fondly call the "Call to Action ladies" dust the tabernacle. Their work is valuable and I am a bit envious, especially of those whose job it is to dust the tabernacle-I think of what an honor it must be to caress the golden box that holds our Lord! But the chatter on Thursdays is often loud and so I have decided to take my holy hour elsewhere on that day.

So on Thursday mornings I drive across town to the abortion mill and have just enough time to pray the rosary before work. I consider this to be a holy hour just as valuable as my time in church because here I am honoring Christ who resides in the tabernacles of women who don't realize that they carry God within their wombs, women who don't realize that God who created all life is also living within all that He has created. At the abortion mill I join several other people who are praying for the sanctity of life, working to save babies from the horror of abortion. I stand side by side with the deathscort who returns my smile with a sneer and look out at the drivers who stare or shout vulgarities from their cars as they pass by on their own way to work. Here I am publicly witnessing to my love for Christ that has been nurtured in those silent holy hours. And I leave my Thursday morning holy hour at the abortuary feeling every bit as fed by the love of God as I do when I am in a silent church praying before Christ in the tabernacle.

Today, however, when I arrived at the abortion mill, I was alone in my prayer, there were no other pro-life witnesses on the sidewalk.  The mill was still closed and so I stood alone on the sidewalk, rosary in hand, silently praying.  Soon a car pulled up and I recognized the woman inside as one of the abortion mill workers, one who is known to be a Wiccan and whom I have heard berating and belittling and swearing at those who pray outside of the mill.  She didn't get out of her car, but just sat there where she was parked.  I could feel her looking at me and it made me very uncomfortable.  So when I finished my rosary, I went inside of my own van to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Just as I was nearing the end of my time of prayer, two beautiful, model-perfect women showed up and tried to open the door of the clinic but found it locked.  I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to speak with them.  So, I left the comfort of my van and asked if I could help them.  They looked a bit puzzled so I told them that the Women's Care Center across the street was already open and they would be happy to help them with a free ultrasound or anything else they might need.  One of the women told me that it was ok, she had an appointment at the mill.  So I told her that I would pray for her and her baby and she thanked me.  As I got back in my car to leave for work, I saw the abortion mill staff arrive and open the clinic door for the women.

This was the first time that I ever summoned the courage to attempt to counsel anyone outside of the abortion mill and although it didn't seem to appear that my efforts met with success, I hold on to the hope that my prayer resounds within their hearts.  I may never know the good that my words might have done but I thank God for prodding me to get out of my van and speak them.

Today, during my holy hour, I didn't hear God whisper His love for me. Instead, he inspired me to whisper love to Him through my words of concern for His precious daughter and her baby.  I pray that she accepts His love and brings another one of His beautiful children to life.

"Mary recaptures woman's vocation from the beginning namely, to be to humanity the bearer of the Divine. Every mother is this when she gives birth to a child, for the soul of every child is infused by God. She thus becomes a co-worker with Divinity; She bears what God alone can give. As the priest in the order of Redemption, at the moment of Consecration, brings the crucified Savior to the altar, so the mother in the order of creation brings the spirit which issues from the Hand of God to the cradle of the earth. With such thoughts in mind, Leon Bloy once said: "The more a woman is holy, the more she becomes a woman."

Fulton Sheen
"The World's First Love"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I met a man at the crosswalk.  It was the crosswalk of a busy downtown street but it could easily have been a crosswalk of life.  He asked for help.  I knew he wanted money of which I had none.  I held out my hands to show him that all I carried was my office key and a rosary.  The rosary was a simple bracelet made of wooden beads held together by a strand of elastic. Day after day I worked those wooden beads through my fingers, slowly wearing them down to the elastic thread.  I told him that he could have my rosary, if that would be a help to him.

He asked, "What's a rosary?"

And I could have entered into a lengthy discussion right then and there, trying to explain the ancient Catholic devotion to the Blessed Mother.  I could have told him about how the angel came to her telling her that she was the highly favored one and her humble response of acceptance.  I could have shared the great sorrow of her life, how she stood beneath the cross and watched her son, her own flesh and blood, God's own flesh and blood, suffer and die, and how before his last breath escaped from his lungs he gave her to all of us to be our own mother.  I could have told him about the glory of that Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of our Savior and the promise of our own eternal joy.  I could have stood there and taught him the words of the prayers that echo through my heart for hours after I pray them.  I could have told him about the great joy and happiness that my Catholic faith brings to me and how praying the rosary is part of that joy and happiness.

But the light was about to change and I was late for work so I simply said, "It's to pray with."

He reached out his hand to accept my offering and I placed my rosary within his upturned palm and said "God bless you!"

And as I walked away I prayed for his well-being, both physically and spiritually.  I prayed that he might actually cling to the rosary and formulate his own prayers from his heart.  I asked the Blessed Mother to hold his hand and comfort him in his need so that he would no longer suffer the effects of poverty of body or poverty of soul.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Upper Room-A Homily by Fr. Dan Murphy

Some days I wake up feeling discouraged before I even get out of bed, and I pray, "Oh Lord, how am I going to get through this day?"  Today was one of those days and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly He answered that prayer.  As my children and I stepped into church we were greeted by Fr. Dan Murphy, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.  He called each of us by name, embraced us and said "Peace be with you."  Then, during Mass, Fr. Dan gave a beautifully consoling homily. After Mass I had the church to myself for a full hour; I was in my upper room of prayer which always fills me with the peace of Christ and breaks through any frustration that I may be carrying in my soul.  So how am I going to get through this day?  With the courage and peace that comes from Christ, and is found in a friendly greeting from a holy priest and silent prayer in His Eucharistic presence!

Enjoy Fr. Dan's homily below and please keep him in your prayers!

“Take courage! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

These days between Ascension and Pentecost are days of prayer; days of prayer and days of waiting. We have a picture of the apostles and Mary in the upper room for 9 days. They're all praying and waiting, and waiting and then praying some more. And they’re back in that upper room.

What was the first thing the apostles did after they received the great commission to spread the good news to the entire world? They did exactly what Jesus did when he started his mission. They withdrew from the busy world. They went to the silent upper room to pray and wait for the Holy Spirit. They’d learned well from their master. Prayer—regular, faithful prayer; that was the high octane gas that gave energy to their work. You and I also need to carve out regular time for prayer. We also need to withdraw to our upper room.

Everyone needs an upper room. Everyone needs a special place where it’s possible to relax and pray; sometimes alone, sometimes with others. Every day there’s some obligation to be met. Tomorrow morning when you wake up from a good night's sleep what's the one of the first things that comes into your mind? What do I have to do today? There are problems to solve, appointments to keep, bills to pay. Life isn’t easy. Even ordinary days can be demanding. Jesus was no stranger to pressure. People were always seeking his help. There were days when he didn’t have enough time to eat or to rest.

Jesus lived with pressure every day. The supreme crisis of his life was the cross. On the night before his died, on the eve of the worst day of his life, Jesus called on strength greater than his own. When life became hard, too hard even for him, Jesus prayed.

 The gift of Jesus to the disciples and to you is the gift of courage and peace. And it all starts and continues with prayer.

A business person who admired Mother Teresa of Calcutta offered to make a set of business cards for her work. Printed on the small yellow cards were 5 lines which outline what Mother Teresa called her simple path. The cards read: "The fruit of silence is PRAYER. The fruit of prayer is FAITH. The fruit of faith is LOVE. The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is PEACE. This simple path led Mother Teresa to live her life in union with God and to give herself in loving service to the poorest of the poor. It all starts with silence and prayer.

“Take courage! I have overcome the world.”

Q. Where is your upper room?


I opened an email from my boss that said "Meeting on Friday at 1 PM Sharp!" and then because I already knew about that meeting I closed the email without reading any further. That was a mistake because what I missed was an important detail about a free lunch that would be served at 12:30.

Friday morning arrived and as is typical for a Friday morning it was busy in the WIC Clinic. I listened to client after client complain about their struggles with breastfeeding or about the difficulties of finding a dentist who would take Badgercare state insurance. I encouraged these young mothers about the benefits and the bonding of breastfeeding and assisted them as best I could, and offered referrals and sympathy for the mothers who couldn't find relief for their children's toothaches. "We should all tell our children to grow up to be dentists," I said, "there clearly is a shortage."

I worked past my normal lunch break and wondered why none of my coworkers were leaving for their own lunch breaks. I popped my head into Chue's office and she explained that our boss was treating everyone to lunch at the meeting so nobody was taking a lunch break. I assumed she meant the lunch would be served a one o'clock when the meeting started.  I went back to my office to work on sending out referrals to doctors about the low iron levels of some of my clients.

Around 12:45 I noticed that the office was strangely silent. I walked throughout the clinic and found that everyone was gone. I was alone. I headed down to the meeting room and found my boss and all of my co-workers eating lunch. "I thought the meeting was at 1," I said. They asked me if I had read the email that said lunch would be served at 12:30, before the meeting would begin.  Obviously, I hadn't. I made a mental note to myself to always read the complete emails from my boss and not simply skim the headlines in the future.  I couldn't help but feel a little miffed that nobody missed me at the lunch.

The meeting began with an in-service on how to deal with clients who are suffering from trauma. Trauma, it was explained, can occur from a major life catastrophe or from multiple minor everyday stresses like passing ten people in the hallway and not one of them says hello to you. Or like arriving late for a lunch meeting and nobody even noticing that you weren't there, I thought.

I felt traumatized.

One of the points of the in-service on how to cope with the traumas of daily life was to begin and end each day by being grateful for one good thing in your life. How Ignatian, I thought, but bit my tongue before I offered that piece of unwanted input at the secular office meeting. Instead, I offer it here, along with a list of people and things for which I am grateful.  Linking up with Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience Blog and her Multitudes on Mondays gratitude list, I thank God for...

~six newly ordained priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee!
~warm spring weather
~lilacs in bud
~a free lunch courtesy of my boss
~my husband and his humor-forever making me laugh
~daily holy hours
~friends who welcome my lengthy and frequent emails
~a new refrigerator after 20 years with our reliable Kenmore
~two sons with full-time summer groundskeeping jobs for the church-thanks for keeping them physically close to you, Lord!
~a son off to seminary college in a few short months
~birdsong in the early morning hours
~vegetable and flower gardens planted and ready to grow
~butterflies dancing around me while I work
~a timely thunderstorm just after planting is through
~son who gives me a bouquet of dead flowers a week after Mother's Day having just recovered them from his hiding place (it's the thought that counts-right?)

What are you thankful for?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


"Being a seminarian is a great life and I would only trade it for one thing, being a priest."
~Fr. Ryan Pruess, newly ordained

Another ordination day is upon the Archdiocese of Milwaukee!  In what has now become a tradition at Imprisoned in my Bones, I offer a re-post of a reflection on the day in light of the Ascension.

Please hold the following new priests in your prayers:

Fr. Ryan Pruess
Fr. Jacob Strand
Fr. Yamid Blanco
Fr. Carlos Zapata
Fr. Brad Krawczyk
Fr. Juan Manuel Comacho


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Appreciation for My Husband

I had a feeling that my husband was a little out of sorts before he left for work. He was unusually quiet and wouldn't let on to what might be bothering him, if anything.  Whenever Paul falls quiet I always assume he's mad at me, and really, poor wife that I am, I give him lots to be mad about.  I've been gone an awful lot lately and maybe that was bothering him.  Or maybe it was because I'd been spending a lot of time on the computer when I am home.  I decided that the reason for his silence is that I've been neglecting him.  My biggest weakness, I fear, is that I am always busy and often gone leaving Paul to manage the household on his own.  Frankly, between both of our busy work and volunteer schedules the only real conversation, if you could call it a conversation, that we've had in the past week concerned the dinner menu.  That's pretty ho-hum, wouldn't you agree?

Paul does an awful lot of giving in our marriage and I am quite good at the taking end of things.  When I first began my involvement with Roses for Our Lady  a little over a year ago, Paul was less than thrilled.  "Oh great," I'm sure he thought.  "Here's another project to keep her involved with something other than the family."  When I'd ask him to come to the holy hours and other Roses events with me he'd usually decline and say "That's your thing, not mine."  So here he was this past Sunday, kindly helping out with my thing, our annual May Crowning, and telling me that he is eager to help again at our next event.  I've got to admit that I've got a way-fabulous husband.

So while at daily Mass, I prayed intensely for him as the host was elevated, and in my mind I pictured him standing there in the sash waiting to help carry the vara of the Blessed Mother in procession, and I was overcome by how handsome he is.  Why is it that men always look so fine as they age, more mature and dignified, and women, well, personally I've been feeling pretty fat and frumpy lately-still overindulging on Easter chocolates and neglecting daily exercise.  Maybe that's what's really bothering Paul; I know it's been bothering me, anyway.

After Mass I made my daily holy hour and had enough time for some spiritual reading so I pulled out Style, Sex and Substance:  Ten Catholic Women Consider the Things that Really Matter edited by Hallie Lord.  It's a great little life handbook intended to help women grow in faith and improve their relationship with Christ.  It's written by ten Catholic bloggers that I greatly admire.  I am so grateful to my friend, Kathy Frymark, at the Salzmann Library for adding this little gem of a book to the library catalogue so that the women of the Milwaukee area can benefit from the words of wisdom within.  During this particular holy hour it just so happened that I read the chapter on marriage, We Said Yes, by Danielle Bean.  Danielle's words about her own marriage and how a woman can best love her husband by caring for him, lifted my heart and inspired me to try to be a better wife.  I'm sure that reading that chapter was God's intention for me today and I left my holy hour with a renewed zeal to love my husband and to let him know how much I appreciate him.

Danielle offers these five tips to build and strengthen a marriage:

1.  Make time for each other.
2.  Say "I love you."
3.  Do things together.
4. Apologize.
5.  Pray.

Her advice seems pretty straightforward and easy.  So this weekend I think I"ll cross off every unnecessary thing I had planned on attending from my calendar and I'll stay home with my family just hanging out and enjoying their wonderful company.  God blessed me with a marvelous husband.  It's high time I let Paul know how grateful I am for the gift of his loving and faithful companionship by making time spent at his side my priority.

"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord."  Ephesians 5:22

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!  Rejoice a thousand times!

Those are words from St. Louis de Montfort's Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  So often we see images of the Blessed Mother with tears in her eyes and a sorrowful expression on her face as she mourns and grieves over the sinfulness of her children.  But on Sunday, May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and Mother's Day, I believe that the Blessed Mother had just cause to wipe away her tears and rejoice, for on this day she was offered the loving prayers of over 250 of her children in the Milwaukee area who gathered together for a traditional May Crowning and outdoor Eucharistic Rosary Procession sponsored by Roses for Our Lady.

We began our day in expectant joy while the statue of the Blessed Mother at the Marian Shrine was crowned by a member of Roses for Our Lady, and our statue of Our Lady of Fatima on our  vara was crowned by a First Communicant.

Following the crowning, those who were able processed throughout the shrine neighborhood with our Eucharistic Lord while praying the rosary.  Our procession covered a ten block radius and for the first time in many, many years, we processed in the streets rather than on the sidewalk.  Use of the streets required a door to door campaign in the shrine neighborhood late last winter to gather signatures of the majority of the neighbors.  With three visits to the neighborhood I received enough signatures to qualify for a permit from the City of Milwaukee police department which allowed our group to really take our Lord to the streets and publicly share our faith.  Fr. Matthew Widder had the honor of carrying our Lord in procession for the second year in a row.

Following the procession we were treated to a beautiful homily by Bishop Hying and then Fr. Jim Kubicki led us in consecrating ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Fr. Christopher Klusman completed the day with benediction.

The Lord blessed us with gorgeous weather and we all rejoiced with the Blessed Mother on a day set aside to honor not only our mothers here on earth, but above all, our Blessed Mother and Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary.

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!  Rejoice a thousand times!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Inside Scoop on God-A Very Special Book Review

When I was still in high school and would struggle to come up with ideas for creative writing assignments, I would always turn to my sister Debby for ideas, and she never failed to offer me a plethora of unique characters and situations to enliven my stories.  Our entire family has long encouraged her to work on a book because we knew that she had some serious talent.  Well now, our wait is finally over!  I am so proud to share this review of Debby's first published book about her experiences of God.

The Inside Scoop on God, is written from the perspective of a Christian who has long sought God on her own terms, not settling for the confines of any one particular religion.  I love the description she offers on her website, DeborahErdmann.com, which states,  "An ordinary housewife spent several years stalking God like the paparazzi."  To my great delight, Debby's search for God has culminated in not only a deep and abiding faith in my sister's soul, but also a terrific book that will inspire and challenge you to spend some time stalking God for yourself!

The Inside Scoop on God is set up as a daily devotional with humorous family stories intertwined with scripture that reveal God's presence in the world around us.  Although I've obviously known Debby all of my life, I found myself pleasantly surprised by many of her experiences that I had never known about, and deeply touched by some that were very personal to my own life.  Debby writes with a light-hearted and joyful spirit while teaching important lessons about the Christian life.  It is clear that God reveals Himself to Debby with a playful and loving touch and she revels in His love and then reaches out to generously share it with others.

From the very first chapter where Debby connects her camping experiences to that of the Hebrews in the  Exodus story, she invites you to join her on her journey of faith.

"So let's do this campout the right way, with the Lord of the star-studded sky and smoky mountain sitting right beside us.  Each day as you're settling in to read one of these stories, invite God to sit around the campfire with you.  You can light a candle and stick a marshmallow over it if you like."

You will want to follow her on the trail she travels and bring God ever more deeply into your heart and soul.  And when you've nearly reached the end of your investigation into The Inside Scoop on God, you will find that, like Debby, you want to keep God sitting right by your side at all times, a prospect she sums up so well with a quote by Brother Lawrence who said, "There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God."

I am so incredibly proud of Debby and so overwhelmingly happy to have a sister with such tremendous talent whose only desire is to use it to glorify God.  I love The Inside Scoop on God and you will, too!

Go ahead and visit Debby's website, DeborahErdmann.com, and watch for the availability of The Inside Scoop on God.  You will want to scoop up your own copy without delay and once you are holding it in your hands, you will devour every wonderful word from the beginning until the very end!

(Available in bookstores and on Amazon.com soon!  Visit Debby's website for details.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Now is the Evangelizing Moment by Bishop Donald Hying

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee recently held a Summit on Evangelization that included the participation of a representative of every parish in the Archdiocese.  Archbishop Listecki and Bishop Hying spoke emphatically about the importance of spreading the Gospel of Christ.  What follows is Bishop Hying's reflection as was previously published in the May 10th issue of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

The task of evangelization — proclaiming the Gospel of Christ — has always been an urgent one.  Jesus accepts no excuses for not following him immediately when would-be disciples ask permission to say goodbye to their family first or to bury a dead father.  This seemingly harsh response underlines the fact that now is the only and opportune moment for discipleship, for preaching the saving message of Christ.
In our present historical moment, this precious task takes on an even greater urgency. Let me cite some disturbing statistics. Here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 62,000 fewer Catholics participate in Sunday Mass than did so in 2000.  On any given Sunday (with the exception of Easter,) only about 30 percent of our baptized Catholics are in the pews.  In Boston, ground zero of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, it hovers at 16 percent. 
Imagine inviting 10 guests for dinner and having only three show up, so you spend the evening looking at seven empty places. A multitude of reasons would explain this dramatic drop off, but none justify doing nothing about it.  Clearly, fewer young people find Mass compelling enough to participate in it.
The majority of members of the large evangelical churches are former Catholics, invited in by a co-worker, neighbor or friend.  Clearly, we need to offer basic and profound catechesis so that our people can both understand and live their Catholic faith. 
People who leave the Catholic Church either do not believe in the faith or they do not understand it.   Basic knowledge of the Scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a must.  We are blessed with many holy and effective school teachers and catechists, but we must do much more in this area. How many Catholics, for example, know even the most basic things, such as the four evangelists, the seven sacraments, the 10 commandments and the four marks of the church?
The vast majority of engaged couples coming forward for marriage in the church are not attending Mass, are cohabiting or sleeping together, are contracepting and know very little about the faith. On top of this disturbing trend is the downward spiral of people who even want to get married at all. Marriage preparation is an opportune moment to walk with these couples, befriend them, offer them compelling formation on faith, marriage and sexuality, and draw them into the community.  Post-marriage follow-up is as important as the preparation.
Thankfully, vocations to the secular priesthood are moderately on the rise, but we have a ways to go before we are able to replace those we lose to death or retirement.  With a few exceptions, however, vocations to religious life have plunged precipitously. In many religious communities, the median age is in the 70s or higher. Part of the reason for this decline is the wonderful emergence of lay ministry within the church; the laity are using their gifts and living their baptismal call in unprecedented ways and we thank God for them. Nevertheless, we will always need and benefit from the evangelical witness and service of religious within the Body of Christ.
Few Catholics under the age of 40 find parish life, as they experience it, to be compelling and interesting.  One could argue that they need to be more pro-active and get involved in things, but few people will come forward on their own without an invitation or a friendship to encourage them.
How can our parishes be more welcoming to all the people who do not fit the “married with children in the school” mode?  Many parishes are doing amazing things in the area of service work, Bible study, and prayer groups for men and women.  We need to lift these up and duplicate them.
I share all of these statistics, not from a gloomy, depressed, hand-wringing mood, but rather to offer a realistic picture of the religious culture and historical moment in which we find ourselves.  How can we re-propose the Gospel of Christ to a world that seeks the truth, but perhaps without knowing it?  How can we help people navigate through some pretty tough obstacles:
n Basic lack of effective catechesis – ignorance of the faith
n Secularity – the exclusion of religion from public life
n Relativism – any belief system is as good as any other
n Materialism – the dismissal of spiritual questions and realities
n Promiscuity – the fundamental misunderstanding and misuse of sexuality
n Clergy sexual abuse crisis – a lack of trust in Church leadership
Despite all of these challenges, I would not trade places with anyone from any other time in history.  We can either wring our hands in despair and decry the end of the world as we know it or we can open our hands in welcome to a new world being born.
Now is the evangelizing moment; now is the time for Catholicism to muster her vast and varied energies to proclaim the Lord Jesus with renewed conviction and fervor. We thank God for all of the dedicated laity, permanent deacons, religious, and priests who passionately profess the faith day in and day out. May their numbers increase through our evangelizing efforts and the power of the Holy Spirit!

(To learn more about the Evangelization Summit click here.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shine a Light

Late last month I had the honor of attending St. Francis de Sales Seminary's Open House and have been pondering the wonderful homily given by the rector, Fr. John Hemsing, ever since.

He began with a story about three men who all died at the same time and approached the gates of heaven only to find that St. Peter was on break and a substitute was taking his place at the pearly gates.  The man on duty asked the first man if he knew Jesus Christ.  "Of course," the man replied.  "I go to Mass every Sunday!  Yes, I know Jesus Christ."  The next man was questioned and he was also confident in his knowledge of Jesus Christ. He said, "Yes, I know Jesus.  I attend daily Mass and pray the rosary and read scripture every single day."  The man at the gate seemed to be pleased with these two responses.  Finally, he turned to the third man and asked the same question, "Do you know Jesus Christ?"  The man replied, "Of course I do!  I recognized You right away!"

As Fr. Hemsing continued with his homily he drove the point of this story home quite powerfully.  He said it may be fairly easy for you to be holy on the outside, to pray, to attend Mass, to read scripture, to perform works of charity.  But are you really holy on the inside?  Or is there some piece of sinfulness to which you refuse to let go?  Is there some darkness on the inside to which you cling?  What holds you back from really knowing and recognizing Jesus?

Homilies like this always make me cringe because I recognize that his words are directed right to me personally. It's as if Fr. Hemsing was speaking to my heart. This was one of those moments when Christ clearly spoke through the priest as He addressed my own state of sinfulness.  Jesus wants me to see that I am not meant to live with darkness in my soul.  He wants to draw me into the light that can only shine upon me after I let go of my tight and fervent clinging to sin. My efforts to hide in the shadows and to avoid the love that can only be showered upon me when I am contrite and humbled before God have got to be put aside, cast off forever, and my heart needs to open itself to the amazing love of God who wants me to know Him and to be filled with His light and His love.

Are you like me-performing acts of holiness on the outside but clinging to sin within?  Do you think that you can effectively cast the glow of Jesus' love to the world around you while that darkness remains inside your heart?

How blessed we are as Catholics to have recourse to the confessional where the black stain of sin may be scrubbed from our souls.  We don't have to accept simply being holy on the outside through actions that all can see; we can shine with the light of holiness both inside and out through a deep repentance and turning away from all of the shadows that darken our souls.

Dear Jesus, Lord of all that is bright and holy, shine your love within my soul.  Reveal my sins to me and allow me to feel such a deep hatred for them that I will refuse to allow their ugliness to keep me from recognizing You when You call me home to Your eternal kingdom.  Bring me to my knees in contrition for love of You.  Amen.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Province of Joy-A Book Review

I confess that I have not been much of a Flannery O'Connor fan; I've only read through a few of her fictional books and didn't finish them as they failed to capture my interest.  So when Sr. Madeleine Cleverly of Paraclete Press asked me to read and review The Province of Joy:  Praying with Flannery O'Connor by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, I thought that I might find a new respect for the author for whom so many people have an affection.

The Province of Joy is set up as a Daily Office with the author's reflections on the works of Flannery O'Connor as the daily lectio divina and an additional segment on daily reading and reflection.  Through the author's perspective the works of Flannery O'Connor are opened up and explored in the context of Sacred Scripture.  In addition, the author has also inserted a beautiful daily prayer to St. Raphael which was purported to be Flannery O'Connor's favorite prayer.  The book is complete with a section of prayers, poems and prose which have been noted to be favorites of O'Connor.

I found The Province of Joy to be a lovely little prayer book full of inspiration.  After reading, praying with and reflecting upon The Province of Joy, I have a new-found appreciation for Flannery O'Connor and will eagerly return to her works of fiction with a fresh perspective on her writing.

For further enrichment I invite you to visit Paraclete Press and explore all of the great Christian titles offered on their website.

Friday, May 4, 2012

God Put Me There

When I learned about the death of my neighbor's daughter, I complained to my sister about my sorrow at not knowing my neighbors, and at not being there to comfort them in their grief. And my sister said very matter-of-factly, "If God had wanted you to be there, He would have put you there."

If God had wanted you to be there, He would have put you there.

What blessed words of reassurance reminding us all that wherever we are, whatever situations we may find ourselves in or whatever events we miss in life, it is all through the grace of God's will.  What peace can dwell within our souls if we only remember that God will use us as He sees fit and all we have to do is lovingly and trustingly submit to His actions in our lives.

So often my insecurities and pride cause me discomfort. I find myself in situations where I feel as if I don't fit in, I don't belong.  I wonder how in the world I ever came to be in this particular place at this particular moment and I long to run away, to escape to some private hide-away where I can be alone and won't have to face my responsibilities.  It is then that I only have to remember that God put me there.  He is always with me and I can carry on.

When I don't feel smart enough, beautiful enough, young enough, old enough, rich enough, strong enough, brave enough, holy enough, to accept my present situation in life, I need only remember that God put me there as I am not as who I think I should be.  He is always with me and I can carry on.

Remembering that God put me there will bring peace without regret.  No more will I wonder why I wasn't given a particular blessing or why I wasn't chosen to endure a certain hardship.  I will no longer wonder why I was asked to lead or to follow, to go out or to stay in, to celebrate in a moment of joy or to cry in a time of sorrow.  Learning to accept God's will for my life in each individual situation that I may find myself in will only bring me the peace that can be found from letting go in complete submission to His divine plan.

If God had wanted you to be there, He would have put you there.