Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cassocks and Collars

I'm so excited because in just five days my oldest son, John, will be coming home from St. Joseph's College Seminary in Chicago and will stay with us for four wonderful and activity-filled days!  It will be his first time home since he left at the end of August.  I am so grateful for email, facebook, skyping, and phone calls because it makes the pain of missing him a little easier to endure.  I am also grateful for the fabulous blog that he writes which allows me to keep up on the things that he holds closest to his heart.  Through his blog, which he recently renamed "Cassocks and Collars" from "Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call", I have learned about how he has been adjusting to life at the seminary and about how deeply he holds to the truths of Catholic teaching as well as how committed he is to upholding those truths.  I was particularly moved by his post on the Eucharist and his letter to the president.   The words he shares are bold and enlightening and although he has only been a college seminarian for a little over a month, I am certain that his future in the Church will be very bright.

If you have never visited his blog before, I invite you to take a look at what he shares on "Cassocks and Collars" and offer him your support through words of encouragement and prayer.

St. Tarcisius and Involvement of the Laity

Because of conflicting work schedules, my family and I chose to attend a nearby church that offered a late-evening Saturday Mass.  It had been many years since we had been to that parish and we found that a lot had changed over the years.

The Mass was pleasant with an enthusiastic priest and a moderate-sized congregation that prayed wholeheartedly.  At the end of Mass, the cantor got up to make an announcement.  Apparently the parish is suffering from lack of involvement by the laity.  "Who will assist the priest at Mass?"  he asked, and it was then that I realized that it was very unusual that there had not been any acolytes at the altar.  My son Justin, who went to that church the previous week, mentioned that there had not been any lector at the Mass he attended, and he said that the priest proclaimed all of the readings.

Then the cantor went on to share a beautiful story....

"When I was a boy, my favorite saint was St. Tarcisius.  During the early days of Christianity, when Mass was held in the catacombs, there was a group of Christians being held in prison.  They longed to receive spiritual nourishment from the Holy Eucharist but there was no one who could take it to them.  If the bishop or the priests were to go, they would surely be murdered.  Although Tarcisius was only a young boy, he begged to be allowed to help with this important mission.  After some hesitation, the bishop agreed to let Tarcisius carry Jesus to the prisoners.

The hosts were carefully wrapped in cloth and placed in a container which Tarcisius carefully held close to his breast as he began his treacherous journey.  As he was nearing the prison with the Blessed Sacrament clutched close, he passed some school mates who were playing a game.  They invited Tarcisius to join them, but he refused.  One of them noticed that he was carrying something and they began to taunt him about what it might be that he was protecting so carefully.  The boys then realized that Tarcisius was a Christian and that he was carrying a Christian "mystery".  They tried to pry the Blessed Sacrament from him but Tarcisius would not let go.  So the boys beat him until he was near death.  Along came a Roman soldier who pulled Tarcisius away from the boys and took him away to a quiet place.  It was there that Tarcisius discovered that the Roman soldier was really a Christian as well.  Tarcisius handed his Treasure to the soldier and asked him to carry it to the prison for him.  Then he died in the soldiers arms."

The cantor went on to say, "I always wanted to be like St. Tarcisius and have the honor of delivering Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to others.  So when the changes in Vatican II came about, allowing the laity to serve as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, I was the first in line to offer my help.  But today, the laity aren't taking the precious opportunity to help the priest at the altar seriously.  Too many are just content to sit in the pew without taking an active part in the Mass.  We need you for this important work.  Father needs you!  He needs you to help as lectors, cantors, acolytes and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.  Who will assist the priest at the altar?"

Even though we aren't members at that parish, my family and I all felt moved by the story of St. Tarcisius and the need for the laity to be more involved in the liturgy.  We are prayfully considering how God may be calling us to serve Him at Mass. How might you take a more active role in the life of your parish by assisting the priest at Mass?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ivy the Leaf Bug

 The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is coming up on Oct. 4th.  Since he is known as a great lover of all of God's creation including animals, this post is in his honor...

I had a few pets when I was growing up.  My dad had a fondness for small animals and every year he would attend the St. Martin's Day Festival on Labor Day weekend and return home with some small critter or another for my siblings and I.  We had white mice, hamsters, a gerbil, rabbits and ducklings.  The ducklings were definitely a favorite!  We kept them in a box in my bedroom.  My duck was named Oscar the Grouch after the Sesame Street puppet that lived in a garbage can and grumbled all the time.  When our ducklings got too big to keep in our bedroom, my dad gave them to my aunt Monica because she lived on a farm.  We found out later that they all became dinner for Monica's family.  When I learned that sad news it was I who resembled Oscar the Grouch more than my pet duckling did!

My kids, on the other hand, have been pet deprived.  We had goldfish for a short time when the three oldest boys were small.  Three-year-old Joe thought his fish was getting tired so he took him out of the fishbowl and laid him on Justin's  pillow to rest.  It was an eternal rest.

But boys need a dog, don't they?  And John, our oldest son, had been asking for a dog for quite a while so we finally took on an old yellow lab, Mel, from one of my co-workers who could no longer keep him.  Mel was used to a nice quiet home where he was alone all day long.  Entering into a household with five boisterous children proved to be quite stressful for the old boy.  It was so stressful in fact, that we only had him for a month before he bit part of Jack's lip off and had to be put down. (Mel, not Jack, of course.)

After that we went for a few years without a pet until Mary won a major award.  She won a raffle which  allowed her to be the summer caregiver for her second grade classroom pet, Ruby, the guinea pig.  Mary did such a good job of caring for Ruby that when she asked for a pet guinea pig of her own for her birthday, we couldn't say no.  Enter Benny, named for Pope Benedict XVI, but also because it's fun to say Benny Bender.  Unfortunately, Benny only lived for a month and we all sadly cried copious tears at our backyard funeral service before we replaced him with Daisy, who was blessed by Fr. Matthew Widder shortly after she came into our lives.  The blessed pet has been happily thriving on love and green peppers for the past two years.

But apparently, a guinea pig isn't enough of a pet for teenage boy and last summer Joe came home from his  maintenance job at our parish with a stow away bunny on his bike that he had found while working on the parish grounds.  He wanted to keep it as a pet but wasn't sure that Paul and I would give him permission.  So he placed it in a cardboard box with two carrots, covered it with some tissue paper and hid it under his bed.  Then he left to hang out with his friends.  A short time later I came home from work and was busy preparing supper for my family.  Mary came downstairs upset because she found the bunny and she feared it might be dead.  We all went to investigate and found the sweetest baby rabbit still living, but obviously not in appropriate surroundings.  We took it outside and as we were deciding what to do with it, the bunny hopped right out of the box and through our neighbor's fence to freedom.  Joe was brokenhearted to have lost his newfound pet but we knew that the wild rabbit really needed to be living in a natural habitat.

But now we have found another wild sort that we have brought into our home to keep as a pet. Last night Mary was outside enjoying a beautiful autumn evening when she discovered a most unusual creature.  It looked like a leaf, blowing in the breeze, but it was actually a leaf bug.  She is certainly exotic and interesting.  A quick internet search told us that leaf bugs make great pets so we prepared a home for her in a mason jar with her favorite food, blackberry leaves, and named her Ivy. 

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would become attached to an insect.  But already I am captivated by this fascinating creature, watching her lick the ends of her long, thin, delicate limbs and climb over the sticks to reach the net on the top of the jar where she hangs upside down.   I marvel at our God and how wondrously fantastic he has pieced together this entire world of creatures that crawl, swim, fly, hop and walk.  Life is beautiful and amazing, every little bit of it.  How blessed we are to enjoy it and then give thanks and praise to the Creator of all that exists!

(The pictures in this post are from the public domain on the internet-our pictures of Ivy didn't turn out very well.  Time for a new camera perhaps?  But isn't it a cool looking bug?)

Baby Feet

Meeting mothers who have lost their babies to miscarriage and abortion is sadly a common part of my job.  When a woman who has been on WIC (Women, Infants and Children) suffers a pregnancy loss, she is still entitled to six months of WIC benefits postpartum, but she has to bring in proof that her pregnancy has ended, just like she has to bring in proof of her pregnancy when she first applies for WIC benefits.  It's a hard thing to ask for from a woman who is emotionally overwrought.

This past week I spent a short time praying a rosary outside the local abortion mill on both Wednesday and Thursday as the 40 Days for Life Campaign has begun its fall season.  On Thursday when I arrived at work, the first client I met was a woman whose son had died at 20 weeks into the pregnancy.  Her cervix would not support the pregnancy and while she was in the hospital on bedrest to try to lengthen the pregnancy, she went into labor, and her baby, still in the water sac, was stillborn.  The funeral home was called and they arranged a prayer service and burial at a nearby cemetery, and provided her with a prayer card that included her son's name and footprints.  It was that prayer card that she used as proof that her pregnancy had ended.

I was pleased to know that the hospital where her baby had died had helped this young mother arrange a prayer service and funeral for her son. But I wonder about how many mothers never have the chance to properly grieve for their child.  How many babies are carelessly hauled away from the abortion mill, left behind by their mothers who feel nothing but relief to no longer be pregnant?  And how many of those women will wake up one day, years later, and suddenly feel the ravaging effects of grief that had been denied for too long?

Please join in your local 40 Days for Life campaign.  Help pray the mothers who visit the abortion mill away from unnatural death for their babies and show them that with the help of a caring community, they can give life to their babies, a decision that will never cause them regret and sorrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Unlock the Door of the Upper Room by Bishop Donald Hying

In Milwaukee, we are blessed with the leadership of Bishop Donald Hying whose energetic witness lights a fire for our entire Archdiocese as he relentlessly gives an example of what it means to evangelize and to share the Catholic faith through his loving generosity and kindness.  It's not at all unusual to find him praying in front of the abortion mill, catechizing a group of young adults at Theology on Tap, leading a holy hour for vocations or saying Mass  for a parish whose priest is on sabbatical.  These are just a few of the many ways he brings Christ to life in the hearts of many, although he would humbly downplay all that he does.   He makes it a priority to unlock the door of the Upper Room and step out in faith to spread the Gospel message to all.  What follows is Bishop Hying's column about evangelization that appeared in the September 27th, 2012 Milwaukee Catholic Herald in which he encourages us to join him in unlocking the door of the Upper Room and spreading the faith to all we meet:


Last week, Fr. Robert Barron, the rector of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary and author of the “Catholicism” series presented the 2012 Pallium Lecture at Cousins Center, speaking principally about the new evangelization.  As we are poised to begin the Year of Faith and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, I was particularly attuned to what he had to say about these things.

Fr. Barron likened the Church to Noah’s ark; after the waters receded from the earth, Noah opened up the ship to let the new life out, to go forth and replenish the world.  Similarly, Pope John XXIII ardently desired to open up the Church to the modern age, so that the saving life and grace of Christ could shine forth in a more effective way.  The renewal of the Church was to only serve the greater mission of “Christifying the world,” as Fr. Barron put it.  Vatican II was a missionary council, answering the question: how can the Church be more fully herself in service to the mission of proclaiming the Good News of Christ, crucified and risen?

I remember asking my mother once what impact Vatican II had had upon her life and her faith.  As a person who loved Jesus and his Church deeply, my mother replied that the council had helped move her to take a more active role in the Eucharist, in the life of her parish, in learning about the Bible, in giving witness to Jesus.  This call to the laity to renew their faith, to live their baptismal consecration, to move from being observers to actors, both in the Church and the world, is one of the great fruits of Vatican II.  Summarized as the universal call to holiness, this renewal of the laity has energized the mission of the Church to sanctify the world and to preach the Gospel.

The Second Vatican Council moved the Church from a defensive posture of reaction to the challenging events of the French Revolution, the Enlightenment, two World Wars, the rise of Nazism and atheistic communism to a proactive openness to what was true and good in modernity.  The goal of this dialogue was to transform the world and to renew the Church.  To be honest, however, at times and in some ways since Vatican II, it seems that modernity secularized the Church who subsequently lost confidence in the truth of her Gospel message.

The current focus on evangelization, certainly present in the council documents, profoundly articulated in Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI’s letter on the subject, recurrent in the writings and speeches of Pope John Paul II and brought front and center by Pope Benedict XVI, who has created a new Vatican office dedicated to the new evangelization and will host a world synod of bishops in Rome next month addressing the topic, takes us back to the freshness of Pentecost morning when the Holy Spirit stirred up the first followers of Jesus to go forth and proclaim the risen Christ as the new meaning of human existence.

In our current historical moment, we can no longer depend on a culture that is sympathetic to belief in general nor rely on a Catholic subculture that just carried us along on a social tide of religiosity.  In a real sense, our culture compels us to choose to practice our Catholic faith, to intentionally give witness to Christ, to act and speak in ways that may bring misunderstanding and even ridicule from those around us.  We can no longer afford to be “institutional” Catholics who just “pray, pay and obey” as the saying goes.

I would argue that this current state of affairs is not all a bad thing. While the drop in Mass attendance, the crisis of vocations to religious life, priesthood and even lay ministry, the struggle to grow our Catholic schools and the clergy abuse crisis remain disturbing realities, there is a new spirit rising within the Church today.  I remain so impressed with thousands of young people who are on fire with love for Christ and have embraced with zeal various vocations within the Body of Christ.  I sense a great thirst for formation, prayer, and service in the lives of many Catholics, a longing for authentic encounters with Christ in the context of a believing community. A deep conviction is growing in many Catholic hearts that it cannot be business as usual for us, that we each have a mission to live and proclaim Jesus and we must find new ways to do this work of Christian witness, if the Church is to thrive and grow.

In many ways, we find ourselves in exactly the same position as the early believers did on Pentecost morning.  On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Lord compels us to unlock the door of the Upper Room and go into the whole world to proclaim Christ, beginning with the people who are right on the other side of that closed door.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Good Pope-A Book Review

In my hometown of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, there is only one Catholic High School; Roncalli High.  Due to my narrow world vision and poor catechesis, I had never known why the school was called Roncalli and I never questioned it, either.  It wasn't until I opened the book, The Good Pope:  John XXIII & Vatican II, The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church, by Greg Tobin, that I discovered that the source of the school's name is the birth name of  Blessed John XXIII, born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli.

I'm sorry to say that not only was I unaware of Pope John XXIII's birth name, but I also knew very little about the Good Pope at all.  So when I was contacted by a representative of TLC Book Tours asking me to read and review Greg Tobin's book for a blog tour, I was eager to educate myself about this beloved pontiff.

Before I opened the book, I skimmed over the reviews on the back cover and was a bit disheartened to read this by Thomas H. Groome:  "The story of Good Pope John is always worth telling but all the more so in the current climate of retreat from his vision of aggiornamento.  Greg Tobin tells it very well.  As we wait for better days, this story will help to keep hope alive."  I felt that this was a foretelling that the book would simply be a criticism of the Church today and would pit liberals against conservatives as seems to be a sad trend in the blogosphere today, with division and dissent as the name of the game, and I worried that reading The Good Pope would leave me feeling disheartened and irritated.  As I began to read the book, I was clearly looking for signs of this, but my worries were needless.  Each reference made to conservatives vs. liberals seemed to be a necessary part of telling the story of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II, and I could easily tolerate it, and in fact, enjoyed reading about it when it came to the telling of the battles that occurred between the bishops and cardinals during Vatican II understanding it to be of historical value.

I have to admit that I not only learned a great deal in these very easy to read pages, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the book and found myself recommending it to others at every opportunity.

From the very beginning of the book I was captivated and felt that I could relate in a very small way to this good and holy man who was the subject of this book.  As a member of,  volunteer for, and good friend to the National Head of the Apostleship of Prayer, I was happy to learn that Pope John was also a member of the Apostleship of Prayer as a young adult, which, according to the author, was "another way for Roncalli and those who were as pious as he to devote every minute of their waking lives to Christ."  I also enjoyed reading about Roncalli's years as a seminarian and learning that he struggled to get good grades, as well as finding out that his relationship with his family was not always joyful and holy but that he struggled to find peace while visiting in his overcrowded home with "continual family arguments."  It sounds to me as if the Good Pope came from a very normal household a lot like my own, and as the mother of a seminarian, I chuckled to think that my own son could probably commiserate with Pope John when he returns home for visits to his own overcrowded house filled with family arguments.

Delving further into the book, I was charmed by Pope John's explanation of why he chose the name "John" upon being elected to the papacy, and was especially fond of his use of the plurals "we" and "us"  when referring to himself:

"Vocabur Johannes (I wish to be called John).  This name is sweet to us because it is the name of our father. It is sweet to us because it is the name of the humble parish church in which we were baptized; it is the name of innumerable cathedrals scattered throughout the world and first of all the sacred Lateran Basilica, our cathedral.

It is the name which has been born by more popes in the long list of Roman pontiffs.  In fact there are 22 supreme pontiffs with the name of John of undoubted legitimacy.  Practically all have had a short pontificate.  We have preferred to cover the littleness of our name behind this magnificent succession of Roman pontiffs.

But we love the name of John, so dear to us and to the whole Church, especially because of the two who have born it, the two men, that is, who were closest to Christ the Lord, the Divine Redeemer of the whole world and founder of the Church.

John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Lord, was not the light himself, but a witness to the light, an invincible witness to truth, justice and freedom, in his preaching, in his baptism of penitence, and in the blood which he shed.

And the other John, the disciple and evangelist, beloved by Christ and his dearest mother, who at the Last Supper leaned on the breast of the Lord and drew from thence that charity of which he was a living and apostolic flame until the end of his ripe old age.

May John the Evangelist who, she himself relates, took to himself Mary the Mother of Christ and our mother, support together with her this exhortation, which is meant for the life and joy of the Catholic and apostolic Church, and also the peace and prosperity of all nations.

My little children, love one another; love one another because this is the greatest commandment of the Lord."

I was also greatly endeared to the fact that his second encyclical written as pope, Sacerdotii nostri primordia (The Beginning of Our Priesthood), was a tribute to St. John Vianney written as a means to "guide, inspire and even challenge Roman Catholic priests."  As someone who is greatly drawn to offer my lifelong prayers and sacrifices for the sanctification of priests as an oblate of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, I especially was pleased to read this passage:

"In John's last major verse in his hymn to priestly excellence, he asks that the faithful pray for priests and that families support vocations to the priesthood.  'We have complete confidence that the young people of our time will be as quick as those of times past to give a generous answer to the invitation of the Divine Master to provide for this vital need....So let Christian families consider it one of their most sublime privileges to give priests to the Church; and so let them offer their sons to the sacred ministry with joy and gratitude.'"

The Good Pope continues on with a detailed explanation of Pope John's vision of renewal for the church and his call for the Second Vatican Council, with interesting tales of the in-fighting among the bishops and cardinals and Pope John's continual and  peaceful overseeing of it all up to his death.  I was fascinated to learn so much that I had never known about Vatican II and now that the 50th anniversary of this historic event is upon us, this book would make a great read for those, like me, who know very little about this pivotal moment in Church history.

In the second to last chapter, Finis, the details about the death of Pope John XXIII are revealed and I was deeply moved by many of his final words such as those spoken to his family:   "My time on earth is drawing to a close.  But Christ lives on and the Church continues His work.  Souls, souls."  And, "Do you remember how I never thought of anything else in life but being a priest?"  Also sweet were his words of consolation to his close friend and aide, Monsignor Loris Capovilla:  "I'll protect you from heaven."

The author's description of the final death scene was also deeply touching:  "Just at that moment, John took his last breath.  Those in the room with John knelt and prayed, then sang hymns-the Te Deum and the Magnificat.  As tradition dictated-and tradition was something John loved-the dead pope's brow was tapped firmly to make sure he was really dead."

I am certain that had I ever known Pope John XXIII in life, I would have greatly loved him,as many clearly have, thus the title, The Good Pope.  I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to read The Good Pope and to come to learn the reason why he is so greatly revered through time and location, even to the naming of a small town's Catholic high school.  Whether you already know a lot about Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council or, like me, you know very little, I strongly encourage you to read The Good Pope.  You will not be disappointed!

For more reviews of The Good Pope, visit these blog stops of the TLC tour:

Tuesday, September 25th: 50 Books Project
Wednesday, September 26th: Imprisoned in My Bones
Thursday, September 27th: A Catholic Life
Friday, September 28th: Book Him Danno!
Monday, October 1st:
Tuesday, October 2nd:
Thursday, October 4th: Vox Nova
Monday, October 8th: Cold Read
Monday, October 8th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, October 10th: 50 Books Project
Thursday, October 11th: A Catholic Mom Climbing The Pillars
Monday, October 15th: Man of La Book

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cross Over

For my beautiful daughter, Mary...

Long, silky strands of golden brown hair sift through my fingers as I braid your shiny tresses.  I cross over and then cross over yet again, back and forth until the plait is complete, never letting go of my firm grip on the satiny locks.

I want to hold on to you just as tightly as I hold on to your hair as you cross over into your teen years, that time that is sure to be turbulent at some moments, and triumphant at others.  Knowing that I must let go and allow you some space to grow, I offer you to the grip of the Lord and ask Him to hold onto you with all His might.

Back and forth your life will cross over, a varied intertwining of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, energy and exhaustion, wholeness and hurt, peace and anxiety, virtue and sin.  But have no fear of the crossings, for He will hold you tightly, weaving and crossing over with you as your path winds and turns and twists until you are safely wrapped in his love, forever braided into Him for all time.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Turn to Beauty

The ugliness of a day
gone wrong
hangs heavy upon my soul.

I long to push the memory
to the depths of my mind
where it should spoil and rot.

But shame has mighty power
it's own
so far from my self-control.

Lurid and lingering details
return to haunt me still;
overcome them I cannot.

I carry the weight and sink
in sin;
distant is my peace-filled goal.

He invites me to come to Him
and bring as gift all the
dark in which I am so caught.

Then He speaks words so tender;
His love
returns my heart back to whole.

The ugly turns to beauty
and I will cope and thrive.
See what His great love has wrought?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fr. Robert Barron on the New Evangelization-Updated

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee played host to Fr. Robert Barron for Archbishop Listecki's Pallium Lecture Series on Thursday, September 20th, and I had the privilege of being one of nearly 1200 people in attendance for his free talk on the New Evangelization, Proclaiming Christ to a Secular World.  Fr. Barron's talk was full of nuggets making it nearly impossible for my pen to scratch down notes quickly or effectively enough to remember everything.  Fortunately, the lecture was videotaped and will be available on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website soon.  In the meantime, here are a few highlights from his talk that I was able to record:

"There are those who have a disenchanted world view who believe that this is all there is.  But as St. Augustine says 'You made us for yourself, O God, and we are restless until we rest in You.'  We seek the truth and rejoice when we find it, but we are never satisfied.  We keep searching.  The more answers we find, the more we continue to search.  Or, as St. John of the Cross described it, 'We have infinite caverns.'  But when we cover up those caverns and pretend they don't exist, that's the disenfranchised world."

"We are surrounded by a "meh" culture of relativism.  In other words, you've got yours, God bless you, and I've got mine.  Don't tell me what to do.  Nothing really matters."  And he built on it with this great example:

"The banks of a river give it purpose and energy.  Knock down the banks and the river becomes a lazy river with people comfortably, safely laying on their air mattresses at a distance from each other and not bothering others.  It's dull; boring.  It's the enemy of the bible which tells an energetic story.  It's the lazy life of those who say 'Religion is gray.  I'm going to let my kids decide for themselves, I'm not going to force them to believe.'"

And he asked, "Do we accept that logic in any area of life that we take seriously?  Consider playing a musical instrument.  If you're just going to play it any way you want to, how's that going to work out for you?  Or how about baseball or golf?  Anyone who is serious about playing the game well knows that they have to follow the specific rules, you can't just do whatever you want or you'll have a mess!

Once you find something of value, you want to get into that river that is going somewhere.  In any area of your life that you take seriously you are not a relativist."

UPDATE:  The video is now available and can be seen here.

photo: Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Friday, September 21, 2012

The World is Hungry

"The world is hungry for the Eucharist, adored and received! "
~Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ

On September 9th, Roses for Our Lady sponsored a Eucharistic Rosary Procession during our monthly holy hour for vocations in honor of the Blessed Mother's birth.  Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer, had the honor of carrying our Lord in the procession.  I posted this picture, taken by Eve Anna Urlakis, to Roses for Our Lady's facebook page and it has been shared 16 times including in locations across the world, which is incredible to me considering the fact that Roses for Our Lady is just a small, local group in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!  Praised be Jesus Christ in the most holy Sacrament of the altar, now and forever.  Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More on Jessica Powers

Jessica Power's gravestone in the dark
 (Can you read it? Try clicking on
it to see it better)
Have you ever done something entirely foolish and impulsive on a whim?  I admit that I have, more than once.  In fact, just this past Tuesday, I was drawn to hunt down the burial site of Jessica Powers after I wrote about her here on this blog.  I was determined to pay immediate homage to her and could not wait for a sunny afternoon to scout out her burial place.

So after I picked up my daughter, Mary,  from her volleyball practice, we raced across town to Holy Cross Cemetery hoping to find the gravestone of Jessica Powers before nightfall.  Holy Cross Cemetery is quite large and even though we had directions from the cemetery office, we were just about to give up the hunt, feeling that it was a hopeless venture, as the dark night was quickly overtaking us.  We were beginning to feel just a bit more than deliciously frightened to be in the cemetery after dark and decided that the sane thing to do would be to give up the search and come back on a brighter day, when I stumbled across the humble plot of the Carmelite nun, which, considering the fact that she was a lover of nature, was fittingly beside a lovely pond where ducks quietly floated under the branches of a weeping willow tree.  "Here it is!" I shouted with joy, startling my daughter who was keeping up a brave appearance despite the desolate surroundings.  Together we offered a prayer for the soul of the long-gone woman and then I recited my favorite poem of hers, The Valley of the Cat-tails.  Mary quickly took a picture of the small headstone and we raced back to the car and headed home.

The next day I was inspired to write a poem of my own to ingrain that paparazzi-like moment in my mind forever.  When I read it to my children, Joe asked me how long I spent writing it and I responded that I worked on it for all of ten minutes.  "I could tell," replied Joe.

I offer my quickly transcribed poem here for your amusement, followed by Jessica Powers' The Valley of the Cat-tails.  You will see that I have a long way to go before anyone will be searching through a cemetery in the dark looking for my gravestone in an effort to honor me!

Poet by the Pond:  by Me

As early evening shades of gloom
cast themselves over every tomb
two brave women came walking

In search of one whose fame was known
for poetry of God's love that shone
in hearts that now were stalking

And when at last through careful comb
they found her everlasting home
they rejoiced with shouts and talking

After quiet prayer and recitation of poem
from melancholy yet small-sized tome
the task was now completed

The camera clicked in evening dark
and women ran to leave the park
for the van was warmly heated

They left the grave beside the pond
trusting that Sr. Miriam was beyond
this earth she long had fleeted

The Valley of the Cat-tails (from The Lantern Burns)

My valley is a woman unconsoled.
Her bluffs are amethyst, the tinge of grief;
Her tamarack swamps are sad.
There is no dark tale that she was not told;
There is no sorrow that she has not had.
She has no mood of mirth, however brief.

Too long I praised her dolors in the words
Of the dark pines, her trees.
And the whippoorwills, her sacred birds.
Her tragedy is more intense than these.

The reeds that lift from every marsh and pond
More plainly speak her spirit's poverty.
Here should the waters dance, or flowers be.

Her reeds are proper symbols of a mother
Who from the primer of her own dark fears,
As if the caroling earth possessed no other,
Teaches her young the alphabet of tears.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jessica Powers

Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit
Not too long ago, Magnifacat Magazine published a beautiful poem by Jessica Powers, a name that was completely unknown to me.  I lingered over the final words of that poem, The Garments of God, which read:

"here in the dark I clutch the garments of God."

And I clutched those words throughout the day, pondering about who the author of such wonder could be.  I didn't have to think on it for long, as within a day I found a blog post by Easter from Hawaii, and learned that she, too, was enamored by the poem penned by that unknown poetess.  But Easter did more than I did, she began to search in an effort to learn more about Jessica Powers and she found this wonderful website with a wealth of information about Jessica Powers, who spent most of her life as Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, a Carmelite nun living at the Carmel of the Mother of God in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.  I had the honor of praying at that very same convent  with my niece several years ago and had no idea that I was in the earthly home of so great a poet.  I wrote about that prayer experience here and after re-reading that post I'm going to have to make an effort to get back out to that convent for some one-on-one time with the Lord, and this time I will be praying for the intercession of a saintly poet!

After learning that Jessica Powers was the author of several volumes of poetry, I quickly put in a request at my favorite library, St. Francis de Sales Seminary's Salzmann Library, and was soon holding every book by or about this wonderful poet within my hands.  Jessica Powers was a close friend to Green Bay's Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau and several of her books of poetry were collected and edited by this local holy man.  You can read an article of his about her here.

One of the things that impresses me the most about Jessica Powers is that she has a great love for nature, specifically the wilds of Wisconsin.  I brought several of her poetry editions along with me when my family and I took a recent camping vacation to Devil's Lake State Park just south of her hometown of Mauston.  While sitting around the campfire, my husband suggested that we have a poetry reading, with my children, and he and I each taking a turn reading one of her poems aloud.  After each reading, everyone snapped their fingers, which is apparently the hip thing to do to show appreciation for the poem instead of clapping.  I was just so happy to introduce spiritual poetry to my family as willing participants that although I would have preferred silence in lieu of the snapping, I went along with the game anyway and found that it was most enjoyable.  If the Spirit inspires you, feel free to snap your fingers after reading the following poems by Jessica Powers, or simply absorb them in silence.

Doves (from:  The Lantern Burns)

A dove in the air,
A dove in the sea,
And a dove in your glance
When you look at me.

Feather of dusk,
Wings in the grain,
And a crumpled bird
In the wake of pain.

Everywhere doves
With their drifting wings;
In a dream, in a song
That a poet sings;

In the touch of death,
In the kiss of love,
And God Himself
As a snow-white dove.

The Seventh Station (from:  The Place of Splendor)

The corner is dark and nobody sees this station.
He falls again, and the picture has nothing new.
The air is musty, crowded under the choir loft,
And people pass with a hurried glance or two.

I think that it must have been true in ancient Juda
As it is true on this shaded chapel wall
That He Whose love had rooted itself in suffering
Would find the most uncomforting place to fall.

Take Your Only Son  (from:  The House at Rest)

None guessed our nearness to the land of vision,
not even our two companions to the mount.
That you bore wood and I, by grave decision,
fire and sword, they judged of small account.

Speech might leap wide to what were best unspoken
and so we plodded, silent, through the dust.
I turned my gaze lest the heart be twice broken
when innocence looked up to smile its trust.

O love far deeper than a lone begotten,
how grievingly I let your words be lost
when a shy question guessed I had forgotten
a thing so vital as the holocaust.

Hope may shout promise of reward unending
and faith buy bells to ring its gladness thrice,
but these do not preclude earth's tragic ending
and the heart shattered in its sacrifice.

Not beside Abram does my story set me.
I built the altar, laid the wood for flame.
I stayed my sword as long as duty let me,
and then alas, alas, no angel came.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fifty Likes

I didn't sleep well last night and when I finally did succumb to the heavy lids and the deep breath of sleep I didn't want it to end and it was difficult to wake up at the 4:30 AM alarm.  A kiss good bye from my husband at 5 AM as he left for work didn't draw me out of bed, either. What seemed like a short time after Paul left, I was vaguely aware of the sound of one of my children pouring cereal in the kitchen, but I was never fully aroused by the noise.  It was ten after six when my daughter came into my room, already fully dressed for school, and, surprised to find me still asleep, quietly asked me what was going on.  With her words I finally woke up, jumped out of bed shocked that I slept so late and feeling a bit panicky that I would have to rush to get ready for the day.

As I groggily stumbled into the kitchen, I was greeted by my son, Joe, who showed me a post on his facebook wall that startled me into a wide awake state.  A young girl with whom he is acquainted wrote:  "Just found out that I'm pregnant.  Fifty 'likes' and I'll keep it."  My son was horrified that this girl could be so flippant about the life of her baby and wondered if this wasn't a hoax.  Sadly, the status only had two "likes" at the time that Joe came across it, so I challenged him to not only "like" it, but to share it and encourage others to "like" it so that the young mother would see that life is valuable to many more than fifty people.

Joe decided that he would wait to try to determine the truth as to whether or not she was really pregnant or this was simply a bogus post for attention before he would get drawn into the controversy in a public way.  He wanted an opportunity to speak with her individually.  I am praying for him today that he will have that chance to talk one and one with her, and that God will give him the right words to say to impress the sacredness and value of life upon her heart, including the sacredness and value of her own life.

I work for the Women, Infants and Children Program and often meet women who are scarred by previous abortions.  It was just a few weeks ago when I met a woman who was pregnant with her fourth child.  She told me that it took her a while to realize that she was pregnant because she didn't believe that pregnancy was possible for her anymore.  She said that she had been in an abusive marriage and when she became pregnant with her third child, she chose to abort that baby.  Afterward, when she felt the time was right, she and her husband tried to conceive again, but couldn't.  She blamed herself for her infertility, thinking that God was punishing her for killing her baby, and she suffered horribly from the effects of regret.  Upon discovering her current pregnancy she was overjoyed to learn that she really isn't infertile and that God was giving her another chance to mother a newborn into this world.  She was determined to make the most of that chance and to be the best mother she can possibly be by starting right now to take good care of herself and the new life growing within her.

Why is it, I wonder, that so many women need to learn the hard way, through sorrow and tears, that abortion is a decision they will long regret?  Why can't they see than an abortion doesn't just kill their baby, but that it kills part of their own souls as well?  How many dead babies does it take until abortion is no longer the facetious topic of a facebook status and an everyday reality of our world?

Please consider taking some time to join in prayer for an end to abortion at this year's 40 Days for Life Campaign in your local area, which begins on September 26th and runs through November 4th.  To learn more about how you can help increase awareness for the sanctity and value of human life and to help save the lives of the unborn, please visit this link.