Friday, June 29, 2012

Catholic Pride

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is offering many special Fortnight for Freedom events where the faithful can gather to pray for our religious freedom during these times that try the soul.  Last weekend Archbishop Listecki offered a special Mass where he courageously proclaimed that we will not obey the government in following the health care mandate that refuses to allow us as Catholics the freedom to follow our consciences. He told us to "proudly puff out our chests and live our Catholic faith, not only inside of our church buildings, but freely in the public sector as well.  We are always Catholic, everywhere, not only when we are inside of a church, and we should always live our faith in all that we do.  We will not let the government try to redefine what it means to be a Catholic!"  His words had a profound effect on me and I everyong at Mass and we left the church with our heads held high.

On the Vigil of the Feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul, Bishop Hying presided at a special rosary and Mass for a full church of faithful Catholics at Holy Angels Parish in West Bend, Wisconsin.  (Photo courtesy of and copyrighted by Eve Anna Urlackis.)  His words resonated deep within this Catholic heart.  He began his homily with a question: "What is it about the Church that is so threatening?  The answer comes in examining the life of Christ.  Jesus raises the most fear in others when he speaks of himself as the Messiah, because if Jesus is Lord, then no one else can be.   We proclaim that Jesus is Lord and if this is true then no civil leader can claim that title for himself."

He went on:  "There is a hidden grace in this current struggle to fight for our religious freedom.  Sometimes we have to make a choice and if we are faithful, the choice has to be for Him and for Her.  We are called to witness to our faith, not in a strident way, but rather, in a way that is serene but bold, convicted and courageous, loving and truthful."

Holding up St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More as examples of fidelity to the faith under tyrannical persecution by the government, he encouraged us to to follow their example in always putting God first in every situation.  He said, "St. Thomas More's daughter begged him to just sign the paper that would save his life even though it meant that he would have to deny his beliefs to do so.  She told him that he wouldn't have to mean it when he signed, that he could cross his fingers behind his back.  But his conscience would not allow him to do it.  And as he was led to his execution he said, "I die the King's good servant and God's first."

In light of the gospel passage  for the vigil of St. Peter and St. Paul (John 21:15-19) he explained:  "The crux of what it means to be a follower of Christ is found in reflecting upon the Greek definitions for love: Philia is the love of one friend for another, Eros is the love between husband and wife, and Agape is the love that Christ shows on the cross.

When Jesus asked "Simon, do you love me?"  it was the Agape love that He was asking for.  Yet Simon responded with Philia love, as in "Jesus, You know we're good friends."  But when Simon was crucified he recalled this moment with Christ, and it was then that he finally got it.  When he was hanging upside down it was the first time that he saw everything right side up.  He was finally willing to lay down anything and everything for Christ.

Do we want to live the Agape of love or do we just want to say, "Jesus, we're good friends?"

As he concluded his homily the hearts of everyone in the church were stirred and convicted by his words.  While the altar was prepared for the consecration, the church swelled with voices filled with love for Church and love for country as we sang "Faith of Our Fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee til death."

For more information about upcoming events within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the Fortnight for Freedom, visit the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website here.  You may also be inspired by this powerful editorial written by Bishop Hying which was published in the June 27th Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Catholic Church does not conform to society


In his column "Catholic reformers may be out of luck," Bill Keller lamented the resistance of the Catholic Church toward the changing of her teachings (Crossroads, June 24). Such a stance reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the church's nature and identity.

The Catholic Church understands herself to be both a mystery and a sacrament, born from the wounded side of the crucified Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. We do not generate the truths that we teach; they come to us as a revelation from God, mediated through the Scriptures and tradition. Keller seems to view the church as a political party that simply needs to rework its platform in order to stay current with contemporary culture.

When Catholics speak of reform, we start with Jesus and ask how we can change ourselves to conform to the ideals of the Gospel mediated through the teachings of the church. When Keller speaks of reform, he begins with the concerns of liberal United States culture and asks how the church can change herself to conform to those concerns.

Such vastly different starting points will never easily converge. The beauty, truth and goodness of Catholicism speak for themselves. One could only leave the church through ceasing to believe her teachings or not understanding them. May all of us be genuinely guided by the Holy Spirit.

Most Reverend Donald J. Hying
Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smoldering Wick

"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench."  Isaiah 42:3

Each day I strike the match and lift the flame to the wick of the blessed candle watching it flicker, nearly go out, and then, suddenly burn strong as the fire takes its full effect.  I breathe a prayer over the flame and then walk away, trusting that my prayer will burn strong, carrying the heat of my love to heaven, to the Heart of God.

But the next day, I return to find that the flame has gone out.  The wax has completely evaporated and all that is left is a metal stub in the bottom of the glass votive holder.  My prayer has gone cold.

My spirit is often the same way.  I begin the day in silent prayer and He floods my soul with His peace.  The flame is lit.  As the day wears on I work hard, full of energy and ambition, completely on fire for the Lord and willing to do whatever it takes to serve Him.  I go about my daily duties and am soon confronted by difficulties-conflicts with co-workers and family, challenging paperwork that is beyond my abilities, weariness and frustration from too much to do.  The peace of my early morning prayer seems so distant.  Like that prayer candle, my flame has dimmed and I am left with a chill in my soul.

Tomorrow I will begin again-I will strike the match and light the wick of the candle.  And God will strike the match and ignite the wick of my soul. It's a never-ending cycle, this life of faith.  I pray that God will always fan the flames of my love for Him whenever the cold breezes of life threaten to snuff them out.  I long to burn strong forever, warmed by His love every day of this life into eternity.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Bouquet of Gratitude

"Though in itself it is normal for us to ask for something in prayer, it should not exclusively be so. There is also reason to give thanks, and if we are attentive we see that we receive so many good things from God: He is so good to us that it is fitting, indeed necessary, to say thank you. And it should also be a prayer of praise: if our heart is open, despite all problems, we see the beauty of His creation, the goodness shown forth in His creation. Therefore, we must not only ask; we must also praise and give thanks: only in this way is our prayer complete." ~ Pope Benedict XVI

My son Justin has always had a very interesting sense of humor.  Recently he was sharing a story about some of his classmates and the very difficult lives they lead, filled with problems like dysfunctional families, teen pregnancy and drug use.  He said, "I have a lot of problems, too.  My mom is too religious, my dad is bald and my brother and sister fight all the time."   Everyone should have Justin's type of problems, shouldn't they?  But seriously, my family and I truly are greatly blessed in so many wonderful ways and we are far too often ungrateful for God's goodness.

Realizing that life is so often fraught with difficulty and stress for so many, I want to strive to be more grateful for the many and varied blessings that God has bestowed upon me, both those that are obviously wonderful as well as those blessings that are hidden within sorrows.

So, I give thanks to God with a bouquet of gratitude for these blessings:

~Daily Mass, especially when I have the opportunity to pray in small and intimate settings with close friends

~Religious freedom- I had the opportunity to see For Greater Glory and was struck by the suffering that the Cristeros were willing to undergo to defend and protect their religious freedom.  Would I be brave enough to go to war for my religious freedom if need be?  If you haven't seen the movie, please do make plans to go.  You really should see it.  And I'd love to hear how you plan to celebrate The Fortnight for Freedom in your neck of the woods!  Would you be so kind as to leave a comment in this regard?

~Time spent with my dear friend Anne L.   Truly some of the greatest blessings with which God has abundantly filled my life are many deep friendships.  What a blessing it is to know that my friends are loving me and praying for me and then loving and praying for them in return.  Friends, especially spiritual friends, add such a heavenly fragrance to life, don't they?

~The blessed opportunity to learn to serve God in all things, the challenges, the disappointments, the sorrows and the joys, and to discern His will for me and then do my best to act upon it.  Far too often in my life I have tried to push my will upon God instead of opening my heart to His desires for me.  This quote from the lovely book Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset says it so well:  "You must strive to bear the cross God lays upon you.  In all your praying and fasting, you have thought only to force your will upon God.  Can you wonder that it has helped but little?"

~A difficult work week is over!  It's cliche, I know, but I do thank God it's Friday!

~Discovering new sources of inspiration such as the lovely blog Mad-Eyed Monk and this breathtaking poem, The Breeze Again, which begins like this...

                 The breeze again, lifting the boundaries
                 Of the trees along the fields

...and ends when you visit Cynthia Scodova's blog to read the rest! 

~Family time at the dentist's office.  Our fabulous dentist, Dr. William Baggott and his son, Dr. Timothy Baggott, share an office which is managed by Mrs. Marion Baggott.  I love that family!  And, their office is brand-new with the latest state-of-the art equipment like this machine that scans my entire head looking for jawline abnormalities.  While I sit in the comfy chair and look out the window at the puffy clouds and darting dragonflies, I barely notice Dr. William cleaning my teeth.  Just on the other side of the divider I can hear Dr. Timothy singing as he cleans my son Jack's teeth.  In one Friday afternoon, our entire family has their bi-annual dental care completed in back to back and side by side appointments that are as pleasant as a dental appointment can possibly be.   I love how accomodating they are in letting us all come to their office at once, as Dr. Timothy teased, "You can't expect a family of TWENTY to keep running back and forth to the dentist!"  And they always have such peaceful music playing, like this lovely song by Lorie Line.  Would you like to listen to it here while you arrange your own bouquet of gratitude?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Mass in Sacred Scripture: An e-book review

"No one else can offer me to the Lord."  ~Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

My friends Kristina Erdmann and Therese LoCoco Milbrath have a close relationship with the vibrant and energetic Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, and they had the honor of helping him with his latest e-book, The Mass in Sacred Scripture.  Therese recently asked me to read and review his book and it was a great pleasure for me to agree to her request.  My husband Paul and I had the opportunity to hear Deacon Burke-Sivers speak a few years ago and his message was powerful so I was expecting the same power from his book about the Holy Mass.

I have to admit that the beginning of the book explaining why there were changes to the Mass was a bit of a challenge to read and I began to worry that maybe the topic was too academic for me.  But there was no need to worry because beginning with The Order of the Mass  and throughout the remainder of this 27-page e-book, my spirits were lifted by the passion in the Deacon's words.

Deacon Burke-Sivers offers a word for word pairing of the Mass prayers with a corresponding scripture passage.  For example, in the Gloria, the words "For You alone are the Holy One" are paired with "I know who you are, the Holy One of God!"  (Luke 4:34) the scripture passage where the demons recognize the Lord.  I found this section of the book to be very powerful and it reminded me a bit of Scott Hahn's The Supper of the Lamb in his detailed explanation of the new prayers we pray at Mass

But by far it was the Questions and Answers section at the end from which I was greatly inspired.  In this particular time in history when the New Evangelization has taken a position of great importance in the Church  I found his words, "The Eucharist is not just important to evangelization; the Eucharist is evangelization!" to be a vitally important resource as we share our faith with others.

I  encourage you to order your own copy of The Mass in Sacred Scripture for a great personal resource to guide you in explaining the recent changes to the words we pray at Mass and for sharing our Catholic faith with others.  You can download the e-book at Deacon Burke-Sivers website, Dynamic

Monday, June 18, 2012


"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48

We are in the midst of our state review at work, the audit where every detail of our work is analyzed and scrutinized to assure that my co-workers and I are all competent, that every "i" is dotted, every "t" is crossed, every client is treated with respect and dignity and every possible facet of our work is completed with utmost perfection.  In other words, work is a bit stressful right now.

The day that the state dietitian came to sit in on our counseling sessions the work was never-ending; the clients seemed to pour into the door and their problems seemed insurmountable.  I had spent time helping a 15-year-old homeless girl with a newborn baby find resources for housing, as her grandfather with whom she had been staying told her that she was no longer welcome there, and I was just reeling over the injustice of a child struggling to grow up too soon and parent another child.  I looked into this young girl's beautiful face and thought of my own teenage children and wondered how they would cope if they were in her shoes.  But I had to quickly brush those thoughts aside because soon it was my turn in the "hot seat"; my turn for the state dietitian to sit in with me while I counseled a pregnant woman with severe morning sickness and her three-year-old daughter.

I've been working as a WIC nutritionist for 15 years and you'd think that after all this time my job would be a breeze and nothing could rattle me.  Not so.  Having a representative of the state sit in and critique my work definitely brings out a case of  jitters in me.  Suddenly I questioned everything I said.  I wondered if I should have offered more encouragement to breastfeed even though the client told me that she was definitely not interested in breastfeeding her baby.  Did I begin to offer suggestions for dietary improvement too quickly before I had done a thorough nutrition screening, I wondered?  And why didn't I give her the mandatory state handout "Drugs and Alcohol Can Hurt You and Your Children?"  There really is too much to remember and I wonder how it is that my brain just doesn't burst from over-information.  I know that it will only be a matter of time before my boss receives the report and I will feel ashamed because of my negligence and incompetence.

I feel a bit of bitterness and resentment creeping into my heart when I consider all of the people who complain that the Church has too many rules to follow and they freely vent about how they want the Church "their way" as if it were a fast food restaurant and not the Bride of Christ.  I think about those who want to pick and choose the rules they like and then cast the rest aside as inconsequential.  But the truth is, every rule is important; every requirement is significant.  I wish I could just invite those who are unhappy with the Vatican and the discipline of obedience to come on over and visit me on the job.  Here the multitude of rules are so important and every little mistake is counted and held against you.  It's a good thing really, because compliance with the state requirements ensures uniformity and gives our clients fabulous care.  But for me, it also ensures an upset stomach when someone sits and watches me work.

And I can't help but wonder what it will be like when I reach the end of this life and I stand in the "hot seat" of judgment before the Lord.  If I'm nervous about being judged by the state, how will it be when it's time for God to judge me.  Will he nitpick every little detail, every un-confessed sin?  Will he count the indulgences I've gained and tally them against the injustices I have meted out to others?  Or will He simply look at me and love me just as I am...weak, sinful, lazy, prideful, greedy, ignorant, prone to anger and quite judgmental myself?

Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.  Don't hold my transgressions against me.  Don't count the many times I forgot to offer words of love to one who was hurting.  Don't count the times I failed to pray with an undivided heart.  Don't count the times I neglected to comfort the poor, the sick, the sorrowing or the lonely. Just love me as I am because I love You so very much and I want to do better; I want to give You my all without lacking a thing.  I want to be perfect in Your sight because You, Yourself are perfect.   Help me to be all that you want me to be.  Amen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

From a Rectory Kitchen

My friend Christi and I share a common love for the Lord, and we also both have sons who are seminarians. So when Christi approached me with a fun little cooking challenge to prepare special meals for our seminarian sons and their friends, I was delighted to partake in it. We both purchased copies of From a Rectory Kitchen:  Italian Food Cooked and Served in the Joy of the Lord, which was written by Christi's friend, Fr. Matthew R. Mauriello and Franca Bosio Bertoli.  The plan is that we will invite priests and seminarians to dinner, prepare some recipes from the cookbook, post pictures and details of the dinner here on this blog, and thereby hopefully inspire you, the reader, to also purchase the cookbook and prepare the recipes for your favorite priests and seminarians.

I gladly agreed to start off the challenge since I already had a dinner planned with priests and seminarians as the guests of honor.  My family had planned to celebrate my son John's graduation from high school with an informal cook-out for friends and family.  The guest list included Bishop Donald Hying and seminarian-to-be Jerry Krajewski.  My family has known Jerry ever since he was a toddler, and trust me, when he finally does enter the seminary he will be a huge success and will one day make a fabulous priest.  Since we were expecting twelve guests in addition to our family of seven, I didn't want to alter the menu too much from the simple summer cook out that we had originally planned, so  I chose recipes for Insalata Di Patate E Fagiolini (potato and string bean salad) and a Fragole Cento Volte (strawberries 100 times) that both seemed easy to make and casual enough to fit with an easy dinner menu of hamburgers and bratwurst on the grill.

The idea was that I would prepare these two recipes without the help of Chef Paul (my husband) who usually does all of the cooking when we entertain guests.  I did ask his opinion after preparing the Potato and String Bean Salad and he suggested adding a bit more oil and pepper.  He mentioned that this was an old-fashioned recipe that is delicious as a base for a tuna steak.

The strawberries were super easy to make, and yes, I really did stir them 100 times although I'm not sure why it was necessary to stir them so much.  But when I was done they were glistening and oh so delicious!  My daughter, Mary, tested a few and agreed that they were fantastic.

After a few rain showers worked their way through our area on the day of the party, the weather became hot and sultry which made these cold vegetable and fruit dishes especially appealing.  Not only did we enjoy fabulous company at our dinner, but our priest and seminarian guests, Bishop Hying, Jerry and John, all commented that the potato and strawberry salads were delicious and very enjoyable.

In addition to the potato salad and strawberry dessert, our menu included hamburgers and brats on the grill, broccoli slaw, assorted beers and wine (Sea Glass and Holy Spirits brands) and lavender cake.

Of course, no meal with Bishop Hying would be complete without his favorite dessert, Bishop's Pie.  The recipe for Bishop's Pie didn't come from the cookbook, but it was my own concoction based on Bishop Hying's description of his favorite childhood dessert.  A few summer's ago my family and I enjoyed a gluttonous summer as we tried out several ice cream pie recipes until we came up with one to which Bishop Hying confessed was exactly how he remembered it, and he recently added, "My mom would be proud!"  I've posted the recipe here several times before but in case you missed it, you can find it at the end of this post.

The next stop on this blogalicious cooking adventure will be at Christi's beautiful home late in July where her guests of honor will be St. Francis de Sales Seminary rector, Fr. John Hemsing and her seminarian son Paul Jentz and possibly several other priests and seminarians.  Christi will share the results of that dinner here on Imprisoned in my Bones.  After that you can look forward to several other future posts about dinners prepared for priests and seminarians by Christi and I using From A Rectory Kitchen recipes.

May I ask that you please keep all bishops, priests and seminarians in your prayers.  We may work to feed their bodies but they work to feed our souls and that is nourishment that will last forever!

Bishop's Pie


1/4 c. corn syrup
2 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 1/2 c. Rice Krispies


1/4 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. chocolate syrup
3 tbsp. corn syrup

1 qt. vanilla ice cream

Combine first 3 ingredients in saucepan. Cook over low heat until mix begins to boil. Remove from heat, add 1/4 cup peanut butter and Rice Krispies. Press into 9" pie pan for crust. Stir next 3 ingredients together. Spread 1/2 mix over crust. Freeze until firm. Soften ice cream slightly and spoon over crust. Freeze until firm. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving. Warm remaining peanut butter mix and drizzle on top.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Surrender to God's Mysterious Grace by Bishop Hying

I think that I would call this article my all-time favorite by Bishop Hying.  Something about it just easily spoke to me at the particular place I find myself in life.  I pray that his words will speak to you as well.  Please enjoy Bishop Hying's reflection that was previously published in the June 14th edition of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald:

One of my favorite books is “Abandonment to Divine Providence” by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a 17th century French Jesuit priest. The basic premise of Fr. Caussade’s spirituality is that God allows, if not wills, everything that happens to us, and so all of the events of our lives, even the most trivial and painful, are the unfolding of God’s plan, the manifestation of divine providence.
If that is so, then I can believe that my life is essentially as it should be because God is in charge and I can surrender all to his mysterious grace.
Fr. Caussade’s message is simple. We do not need to perform extraordinary penances, execute mighty deeds or perform spiritual calisthenics to become a saint. All we must do is the will of God in every moment as it is made known to us.
Going to work, washing the dishes, writing a term paper, hosting a party, fixing the lawnmower may seem to have nothing to do with God, but if these are the duties asked of us in the present moment, they become extraordinary expressions of God’s will in our lives and our sacrifice of love and service to him. When we view our lives through Fr. Caussade’s spiritual prism, our simplest actions are imbued with a saving power beyond our imagining.
I find this way of thinking eminently practical and helpful in dealing with the frustrations, challenges and sufferings of life. If, when I’m in a hurry, I am delayed by a passing train, maybe God is saving me from an accident down the road.
If some great pastoral plan I poured my heart into miserably fails, maybe God has a better idea that will take off and flourish. If my brother died at the age of 10, maybe his prayers before the throne of God will help lead many people to salvation.
When I can surrender and accept the painful crosses that come my way, I fall into a joyful freedom that liberates me from anger, resentment, self-pity and disappointment. The world will break our hearts, but we can keep coming back to God to let him heal the broken pieces.
One of my favorite saints is Therese of Lisieux, who entered a cloistered Carmelite convent at the unconventional age of 15, and died of tuberculosis at 24. After the initial euphoria of her new life wore off, Therese found herself resentful and unsatisfied.
She dreamed of serving as a missionary in some exotic land, of gloriously dying as a martyr, even of being a priest, but all of these doors were closed to her. Instead, her days were filled with long hours of prayer, hard work, silence and the challenges of living in a community of women who were much older than her.
Insight came her way while reading Chapter 13 of Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, the famous hymn to charity. Therese rapturously discovered that God was not calling her to great deeds, but to great love. To joyfully arise at 4:30 a.m. and pray in a dark, cold chapel, to patiently tend to the needs of the old, cranky sister in the cell next to hers, to heroically embrace the thousand and one emotional pinpricks, unreasonable demands and trivial duties of her cloistered life was her path to sanctity. 
When we are sad, grieving or stressed, we may be tempted to dream of a different life, a new spouse, a body free of pain, but such desire is ultimately an escape that takes us away from the reality of God in the present moment where we find ourselves.
In his humanity, Jesus did not seek the horror of the cross, but in the anxious solitude of Gethsemane, he surrendered to the ultimate unfolding of divine providence and won for us the priceless gift of eternal salvation. By surrendering to the crucifixion, Jesus found freedom in the middle of a hellish death. Jesus was never freer, more himself than when he found himself nailed fast to the wood of the cross.
When we surrender to that paradox of the paschal mystery, we can grasp and live the message of Fr. Caussade and St. Therese. Here is a quote from the introduction of “Abandonment to Divine Providence”: “True mystics are always more practical than the ordinary run of people. They seek reality; we the ephemeral. They want God as he is; we want God as we imagine him to be.”

Friday, June 15, 2012

World Day of Prayer for Priests

This is a day of great joy!  What a blessing it is for us to have an entire day set aside to offer loving prayers for priests, and it is an even greater blessing that this day occurs on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!   I know that you pray for so many priests every day and that you have a tender love for those priests who have touched your soul through the Sacramental life of the Church, and yet, today, your prayers and my prayers are united into one great gift of love!

Would you please join me in offering additional prayers for our priests today on this World Day of Prayer for Priests?  On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for them within His Sacred Heart, uniting your prayers with His own, who loves them with such a pure and undivided love to which we can only hope to emulate.  In striving to pray within His Sacred Heart, you may benefit from reading this story about Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ and his book A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which can be found at this link.  O Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts, and the hearts of all priests, like unto Thine!

From the Congregation for Clergy:

"O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of Priests"

Today’s world, with its ever more painful and preoccupying lacerations, needs God- The Trinity, and the Church has the task to proclaim Him. In order to fulfill this task, the Church must remain indissolubly embraced with Christ and never part from Him; it needs Saints who dwell “in the heart of Jesus” and are happy witnesses of God’s Trinitarian Love. And in order to serve the Church and the World, Priests need to be Saints!

O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of  the whole Church:
Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit,
and give power to the words of Priests
so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance and return to You, O Lord.
Lord, give us holy Priests;
You yourself maintain them in holiness.
O Divine and Great High Priest,
may the power of Your mercy
accompany them everywhere and protect them
from the devil's traps and snares
which are continually being set for the soul of Priests.
May the power of Your mercy,
O Lord, shatter and bring to naught
all that might tarnish the sanctity of Priests,
for You can do all things.
My beloved Jesus,
I pray to you for the triumph of the Church,
that you may bless the Holy Father and all the clergy;
I beg you to grant the grace of conversion
to sinners whose hearts have been hardened by sin,
and a special blessing and light to priests,
to whom I shall confess for all of my life.
(Saint Faustina Kowalska)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Won't Give Up

I had thought of my parish as a sanctuary where I could flee from the problems of life.  I had hoped to find comfort and solace in that environment.  Instead I found the cross.

I wanted to shake the dust from my sandals, thinking that I needed to break free from a big part of who I am; I wanted to leave my parish where my family and I have been members for 20 years.  It's the only parish my children have ever known.   I was filled with frustration and anger and resentment and hurt and I wanted out. Things were said that didn't sit well with me and I thought that the only answer to my anger and hurt was to leave and start over fresh somewhere new, someplace where I wouldn't have to face any difficulties over differences from the way I believe, from the way that I thought everyone should believe.  I wanted to belong to a church where everyone believed and spoke just like me.  The thought of leaving felt like a divorce or a death.  My husband and children and I were grieving and we really didn't want to leave.  But I was stubborn and leaving was the only solution, in my opinion. We began to visit other parishes and schools to find someplace new to call home.  It seemed so strange to be in this position because so often in the past I was the one begging others to stay and I was the one mourning over the loss of friends who have left the parish.

As we started to sever the ties by trying to disentangle ourselves from the various ministries and activities to which we were deeply involved, others reached out to us.  We heard from parish staff and parish members who asked us not to leave.  We heard words of love and understanding as well as offers of assistance to face our concerns.  One of my dearest and longest friends said, "I'm praying for you.  I'm not praying so that you stay at the parish; I'm praying so that you will be happy wherever you are."  It felt so good to know that we are loved unconditionally and that if we would leave we would be missed.  I learned that life at a parish is so much more than just the ideologies of a few but instead it's about the love of the many.  A parish is a home and its members are a family no matter how different we all may be.  But learning to get along with others involves some pain-it involves the cross.

As with all things in life, I gave my worry to God, asking Him to show us His will in this matter. And He spoke through my husband who decided that a meeting with our pastor was in order.  So we made an appointment and shared our concerns and he listened in love.  And he told us that everyone is important in a parish and that our differences are what makes a parish rich.  He reminded us of how dull life would be if everyone were the same.  He said that every piece of a puzzle needs to be in place to make a complete picture and he agreed to address the concerns that had hurt my heart.  And his words satisfied us.

So we are staying at our home parish where we belong, where we sit by side with our fellow Catholics at whatever stage of belief we happen to be in and we pray to our One God with whom we are all deeply in love.

I had thought of my parish as a sanctuary where I could flee from the problems of life.  I had hoped to find comfort and solace in that environment.  Instead I found the cross-which is just as it should be.

 Every once in a while a song touches me where no words on their own, without music, can. I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz speaks so eloquently to the importance of holding on, of persevering in loving others, no matter how difficult life can become. These words in particular spoke to me as I prayed through this situation:
I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not
And who I am

I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up
Still looking up.

I won't give up on us (no I'm not giving up)
God knows I'm tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We've got a lot to learn (we're alive, we are loved)
God knows we're worth it (and we're worth it)

You can listen to the entire song at this link.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dip Your Paddle

In my most recent candidacy lesson for the Oblates of the Precious Blood I found this gem from Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald on mental prayer:

"Look at the beautiful face of our Mother Mary and you will say a perfect prayer. How simple it is to pray if we pray meditatively, if we take time to think of what we are saying. St. Francis of Assisi would spend all night saying only: "My God and my All." I want you to learn to pray like that, according to Divine Counsel: "When you pray, pray not long prayers." Pray meditatively; don't be racing through prayers. If you ask God, He will help you to pray. Pray as one who paddles a canoe on a quiet lake in the twilight. [Imagine] the violet banks of hills set against the gold of the setting sun; the lake almost a mirror with here and there a little fish splashing and a little bird winging its way home. You dip your paddle just enough to keep the canoe moving. So in meditation, one does well to dip one's paddle just enough to keep one's soul moving toward God."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

That's My Baby!

Ahh, the sweet and sorrowful passage of time...relentless....never.ever.stopping.

My oldest son graduated from high school yesterday and I wonder, how can this be?  He was just a baby yesterday.  Through the years of his educational career, my husband and I sat side by side as we watched countless school plays, choral performances and athletic events in which John had been privileged to participate.  It never failed that during many of these events meant to showcase the abilities of our children, one proud parent would break free from the constraints of etiquette and reserved deportment with an attention seizing shout, "That's my baby!"  Paul and I would mutter a united "Oh brother!" and roll our eyes.  Yes, even yesterday, during the high school commencement ceremony, those shouts of parental pride could be heard.  But me, I sat silently while tears of emotion welled in my eyes from the first strain of Pomp and Circumstance until the moving of the tassel.

So today, here on this blog, I'm going to be "that" parent and shout out....

That's my baby!!!!  Congratulations John!  You have made your family and friends so proud!  God has blessed us with your presence in our lives.

We celebrated this momentous occasion with a celebratory dinner at Graffito, the restaurant owned by Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun.  Just as we were finishing our amazingly delicious meal, dining al fresco by the riverside, Ryan Braun walked in for his own dinner.  John boldly asked him for a picture.  We couldn't have purchased a better graduation present.  John was thrilled!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Links of Love (Eucharistic Love)

His Body.
His Body, beaten, bruised, broken, beautiful.
His Body...a gift for me...a nobody.
A nobody who becomes a somebody
through the indwelling of
His Body within my very flesh and soul.
Oh, I love His Body and how it changes me!

 Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!
In honor of the Feast I offer several links of good reading about our Eucharistic Lord...

One of my dearest friends, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, who is the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, writes an excellent blog called Offer It Up.  In his most recent post, Christ on the Streets, he shares a reflection on Roses for Our Lady's Eucharistic Rosary Procession that was held last month to honor the Blessed Mother, but his reflection is written in light of the upcoming celebration of Corpus Christi. Read it for inspiration to publicly share your faith.

A local writer from the Milwaukee area, Marge Fenelon, writes a wonderful blog, Are We There Yet?, and her recent column, What a Contrast, includes a wonderful reflection from Pope Benedict on the significance of the Eucharist and the importance of both celebration and adoration of the Body of Christ.  It's a must read. You can find her blog post here.

The New Theological Movement  post on the Feast of Corpus Christi  has a great write-up about the miracle of Lanciano.  The pictures are amazing.  Believe!

I've recently run across a few blogs that have really touched my heart.  I am drawn to the beauty of the words and images that they contain and although I've only just discovered their blogs, I feel a kindred online friendship with the souls who write them.  So I wanted to share the links here in an effort to encourage you to visit them:

The Breadbox Letters and The Cloistered Heart are both written by Nancy Shuman, a spiritual director with a special gift for writing.  What a blessing that she shares that gift online for many to enjoy!

Truth Himself is a beautiful blog where Janette includes quotes and images that inspire devotion to our Eucharistic Lord and the truths of our Church. It is simply lovely!

Happy reading and may you be blessed in so many ways by the Real Presence of our Lord in your life.

(pictured:  Fr. Christopher Klusman)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ecumenical Ministry of Coworkers

I've got a heavy worry on my mind these days and have been feeling as if the weight of the world is upon my shoulders.  As always, it's prayer that holds me together and carries me through the difficulties of life so I rely on daily Mass to begin my days.

This morning as I was pulling out of the garage I ran over a board with nails in it and punctured one of the van's tires.  I could hear the pop as the nail broke through the rubber and knew I would not be safe to drive the van very far. So instead of attending Mass, I went to get the tire replaced.  Coming up on noontime I was sorely feeling that lack of prayer from missing Mass so I asked one of my supervisors at work if I could alter my lunch break allowing me to attend Mass at nearby Gesu parish.  I shared a bit of my concerns with her and told her that I knew I could get through the afternoon much better with a little more prayer under my belt.

She's such a kind and prayerful soul herself;  a hard-working lactation consultant devoted to helping our clients reach their breastfeeding goals.  She recently married a man who will be attending a Presbyterian Seminary in the fall.  She handed me her daily devotional prayer book and asked me if I would like to take it with me to Mass.  The breastfeeding peer counselor who was with her in the office reached out and took the prayer book and said, "Let's pray the prayer together right now!  I didn't spend enough time in prayer this morning, either."  I am tremendously blessed to work with wonderful women of faith who are open to sharing their love for Christ with anyone in need, including their stressed-out Catholic co-worker.

So the three of us gathered together and prayed over this passage:

"I am all around you, like a cocoon of Light.  My Presence with you is a promise, independent of your awareness of Me.  Many things can block this awareness, but the major culprit is worry.  My children tend to accept worry as an inescapable fact of life.  However, worry is a form of unbelief; it is anathema to Me.

Who is in charge of your life?  If it is you, then you have good reason to worry.  But if it is I, then worry is both unnecessary and counterproductive.  When you start to feel anxious about something, relinquish the situation to Me.  Back off a bit, redirecting your focus to Me.  I will either take care of the problem Myself or show you how to handle it.  In this world you will have problems, but you need not lose sight of Me."  ~Luke 12:22-31; John 16:33  (From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

What a perfect and beautiful passage to calm my frazzled nerves!  And as I walked over to church for the noon Mass I was comforted by that prayer and was led to pray John 16:33, one of my favorite gospels passages, under my breath, over and over again:  "In this world you will have trouble.  But take courage, I have conquered the world."

And I know that all will be well for God is in control.  I am encased in His cocoon of Light.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Growing Pains

What a joy it is to watch the plants and flowers grow as the warm sunshine and the fragrant rains of spring draw life from the dead ground after a long winter.  But sometimes, the new life that comes forth includes unexpected hardships.  The thriving grapevine arbor in our backyard that has been the source of an abundant supply of fruit each fall, had been attacked by a pest that was eating the leaves.  We sprayed the vine to remove the pest and in the process we killed not only the infestation but also the vine.  Our backyard retreat is now covered with dead leaves, and new, tiny shoots are struggling to break through and grow once again.  I know that our hardy grapevine will survive this difficult season, but thinking about all that the grapevine must endure regarding weather, pests, and other ravages of time brought me to recall a prayer I wrote a few years ago about spiritual growth...

Dear God,

As your beautiful world
comes to life in the season of spring
I realize that I, too,
am coming to life in the season
of Your love.

Like the leaves on the trees
and the flowers in the ground,
I am growing, and it hurts.

As an adolescent suffers pain
in his joints during periods of growth,
I also ache as I grow spiritually.

Is it possible that the
growth of spring
is painful for the leaves and flowers, too?
Do they suffer pains to produce
their beauty?  They must!

Pain produces new life and new growth
for everyone and everything.
Please God,
comfort all living things
as we reach and stretch
and grow in our efforts to glorify You.