Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Only Child



The U-Haul truck pulled up to the house across the street and little by little furniture was carried out and loaded into the truck. Our neighbors had not lived in their house very long, only two or three years...continue reading at Catholicmom.com


Friday, April 27, 2012

A Year of Faith by Bishop Donald Hying



Bishop Hying has written a powerful and thorough reflection on what the upcoming Year of Faith means to Catholics throughout the world.  This was originally published in the April 26th issue of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.  I invite you to reflect upon his words below and then carry them out as best you can to really help bring our beautiful Catholic Faith to life for yourself and for everyone you meet.
Pope Benedict XVI has established a Year of Faith which the Catholic Church will celebrate from Oct. 11, 2012, to the feast of Christ the King in November, 2013. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this special observance is a graced opportunity for all Catholics to deepen, share and celebrate the richness of their faith in Christ.
Faith is a precious gift offered to us by God and our graced response to his saving initiative in Jesus Christ. In freedom, we choose to believe in, know, love and serve God in this life and to desire eternal union with the Blessed Trinity. No one, not even the Lord himself, can force us into faith, because belief, like love, is a sacred action of our conscience, a choice we make in the deepest part of the self. Religious freedom is the most fundamental of human rights because our relationship with God is the foundation of our existence.
 
Here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, special events and activities will mark the Year of Faith, including an opening Mass at St. John Cathedral on Oct. 11, recognition and formation opportunities for catechists, ecumenical encounters with other believers, and various presentations on differing aspects of the rich deposit of Catholicism.


We encourage all parishes, schools, religious communities and organizations to organize their own celebrations and events to mark this special focus on the extraordinary gift of God’s revelation to us. Beginning this month, a special Web page exclusively dedicated to the Year of Faith is accessible on the archdiocesan website, www.archmil.org/Year-of-Faith.htm. Please post any special activity you will be planning on this page.
As evidenced by even a cursory reading of the Acts of the Apostles, from the day of Pentecost onward, the church has never seen the gift of faith as a private relationship with Christ, to be enjoyed in some spiritual exclusivity. Immediately after their anointing by the Holy Spirit, the apostles leave the Upper Room and begin to evangelize the people gathered in Jerusalem for the special feast.
In other words, they share their faith in Jesus with others from the very beginning. This proclamation of the crucified and risen Christ as Lord and Savior, indeed as the new meaning of human history, was so magnetically persuasive and emotionally electrifying that 3,000 people were baptized that same day in an explosion of the Holy Spirit.
A principal tenet of Alcoholics Anonymous is that the best way to maintain one’s own sobriety is to help others to attain theirs. Similarly, I can only grow in my own faith if I am actively sharing it with others. Faith shared is faith increased, as we mutually witness to and build each other up in Christ.
Perhaps this truth explains why the Holy Father places so much emphasis on evangelization in his writings announcing the Year of Faith. An integral part of belief in Jesus Christ and his Gospel is to confess it to others, in the best sense of that term. Catholic faith held in silent privacy and strict individualism soon evaporates into no faith at all.
Catholic evangelization is not an aggressive proselytism. We do not need to be talking religion constantly or tediously quoting the Bible or the Catechism. If we seek to proclaim Jesus, first of all, we need to actively live our faith, firmly rooted in the Scriptures, the sacraments, daily prayer, parish involvement, service to the poor and sick, and living a moral life.
If Christ is not the organizing principle of our daily existence, our Christian witness will suffer a fundamental lack of integrity that will nullify its effectiveness. The saints could talk about Jesus as if they personally knew him, because they did personally know him. He is not a distant, historical figure, but the living Lord!
Secondly, and this point is as important as the first, we need to be able to articulate our Catholic faith in an intelligent and attractive fashion when the opportunity arises. Can I talk about my own experiences in prayer, my sense of Jesus’ presence in my life, why I choose to practice Catholicism, what difference faith makes? Can I persuasively explain why premarital sexual relations are wrong, what we currently believe about purgatory, when war is morally justified or not, what the basic theology of the Eucharist is, why we should go to confession, just to choose several examples?
While many Catholics live a deep life of prayer and holiness, too few are able to explain the faith in a simple yet complete way. That is why adult formation, spiritual reading, Bible study, familiarity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church cannot be the leisurely options of just a few interested folks who gather in the parish hall on a Thursday night.
We all need to be able to explain what we believe and why we believe it. Catholicism is a remarkably logical system of belief and thought, so if we understand the basic principles of belief concerning God, Jesus, the church, the sacraments, the nature and purpose of sexuality, the dignity of the human person, we can see the reasonableness of Catholic teaching, especially in the area of morality and ethics.
As Jesus tells us, we are the light of the world; no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket; a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. An integral part of our faith is to share it with others.
When two people fall in love with each other, they want to talk about their beloved with everybody. We have fallen in love with God and we want everyone we meet to become part of the romance. Vatican II renews our faith and the Catechism explains it. This Year of Faith is a precious opportunity to live, deepen, celebrate and share the powerful truth of the Gospel!

Walking in Memphis


Today Paul and I are celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary. When I look back at our wedding photos I can't help but think that we were just a couple of kids back then and I marvel at how much we have both grown over the years. I am amazed at how much life we have fully lived and I find it hard to remember what life was like without Paul by my side.  Growing old together truly is a blessing that so few people are able to realize, although compared to some, we are still just a couple of newlyweds in the early stages of our marriage.  I look forward to the day when Paul and I can say that we have been married for 50 years, so really, we are not even at the halfway mark of our marriage yet.

When the excitement of our wedding day had settled into a peaceful joy, we got into my electric blue Chevy Cavalier and drove to Tennessee for our honeymoon adventure. We started out in Memphis visiting Elvis Presley's Graceland and Beale Street, the birthplace of the blues, and then drove across the beautiful state to hike in the Smoky Mountains. It was providential that just at the time we were married Marc Cohn had a hit song, Walking in Memphis, and every time we hear it we are always taken back to that happy time when we were young and love was new. Like the words in the song, "you've got a prayer in Memphis" we really did have a prayer in that specific time and place, we had a prayer for the hope of a lifelong marriage spent in  the loving arms of God.

Why don't you watch the embedded video here and celebrate our anniversary with us?


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chimes

All day long I listen to pain and hardship...girls barely fourteen-years-old try to hide wombs ripe with fresh life, young mothers worn down from trips back and forth to the NICU to visit their babes born too soon, homeless families working to put the pieces back together-trying to re-establish roots, and mentally ill women bearing the torment of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia trying to comfort crying, frantic toddlers who would push the limits of patience in the most sane of mothers.  They share their stories-sometimes timidly and discreetly, other times with a loud brashness that makes me back away and tremble to be near them.  And it doesn't matter how many times I've heard these types of stories before, it still feels raw and fresh and painful every single time the suffering breaks open in my presence.

And then the chimes ring...the chimes that signify a new life born in the hospital. Another baby is brought into the world, gulping the oxygen of life, crying from the pain of breaking through the waters of the womb into a life that holds no promises of wealth or success or happiness.  But still, those chimes, they stop me in my tracks and fill me with hope and joy.  Because I know.  I know that each life born into this world is a gift, a miracle of cells multiplying and increasing to hold the presence of God and carry Him forth into the future.  And it won't be long before that new life is gently carried into my office by a mother filled with awe over the responsibility that has been placed into her unworthy hands.  And that new life will smile and gurgle and then peacefully fall into slumber, and that's all it takes to change my perspective from sorrow and frustration to elation over the goodness of God and the great gift of new life.

Every baby born is hope for the world.
Every baby born is a needed gift.
And I thank the Lord for every baby born.
Let the chimes ring out!  Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Everything is Sacred-A Book Review

















When I was contacted by Sr. Madeleine Cleverly at Paraclete Press asking me to read and review Everything is Sacred:  An Introduction to the Sacrament of Baptism by Thomas J. Scirghi, SJ, I eagerly agreed, thinking it would be an easy read that I could breeze right through. After all, I have been baptized, my children are baptized, what could I possibly not already know about baptism?  It turns out that what I didn't know was quite a lot.  The word "introduction" in the title threw me off because this book really was so much more than an introduction to the sacrament.  Rather,  it was an in-depth explanation about what it means to be baptized, about the importance of Christianity, and about how we are to live our Christian faith in order to draw more people to the sacramental life of the Church.  In a day and age when church attendance of every Christian denomination is waning, this book is a very important read for all those who care about keeping the Christian faith alive.

The author offers an explanation of what it means to be baptized, of how this sacrament brings sanctity to all of our days, with these words:  “The baptismal seal serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it indicates ownership or perhaps it would be better to say membership, as the newly baptized are made members of the Christian community…we know who they are and whose they are. This is not a magic spell promising that no harm will come to us. We are simply assured that God’s grace will overpower the evil we will encounter.”

 His explanation of why Jesus, who was sinless, had to be baptized was enlightening: “…while Jesus committed no sin, he did carry with him the sins of humanity bearing upon himself the sins of the world. This is no empty gesture on Jesus’ part….Jesus' baptism foreshadows his crucifixion….to be baptized means to share in the passion of Jesus Christ.”  He reminds us that “Christians pray through the cross, not around it or despite it.”

Everything is Sacred covers the basics of what a baptismal service looks like and then follows that with how important it is for all Catholics to support the newly baptized in their faith.The author offers suggestions on how to accomplish this, especially for those baptized through the RCIA process, such as to immediately involve the newly initiated into parish life in liturgical roles, spiritual retreats and social gatherings. He goes on to say that “The Christian vocation entails the responsibility of witness and support:  witnessing to the presence of Jesus Christ, who is realized through prayer and work, and supporting one another when challenged by temptation and despair. Celebrating, challenging, consoling-all play a part in this activity of accompanying, which is the mission of us all.”

Scirghi fearlessly raises questions that some may have regarding baptism and answers them soundly.  He addresses the cry of the politically correct in their desire to change God’s name from Father to something genderless and rationalizes the need to continue to pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as it enriches the relational quality of our faith.  He answers questions about limbo and shares a beautiful prayer from the "Blessing of Parents after Miscarriage."  He discusses whether or not it is better to baptize babies or adults, as well as clarifying who it is that may minister the Sacrament.

The book reaches the end with something that I had never heard of before and which I found to be nearly unbelievable and incredibly sad.  Scirghi shares information about a recent trend among some to try to “undo” their baptism through ceremonies with hair dryers that symbolize the drying of the baptismal waters. It was absolutely heartbreaking to learn that someone would want to completely break with Christianity in such a way as to publicly display their hatred for the faith in a mock ceremony.    Scirghi beautifully addresses the futility of these actions with these words:

"The seal of baptism cannot be undone because within the ritual of the sacrament the church acts in the name of God.  The church acts for God.  The church acts as God does in relation to human beings.  The indelible bond of baptism cannot be undone; this undoing would contradict a fundamental belief of Christianity, namely, that God cannot and will not turn away from any person.  The bond cannot be broken by God."

For those who think that they understand what it means to be baptized a Catholic Christian, I invite you to open the pages of Everything is Sacred and be challenged to discover anew the importance of this sacrament of initiation and how you can more fully live your personal vocation as a child of God.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Debris Turned Devotional






















I bent and lifted
glass of red
and hung it near my heart

it lingers still and
like a fire
Love's warmth it does impart

a secret gift of
devotion
disguised as work of art

O Sacred Heart of
Jesus, from
Thee I'll never part

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Living Chalice

"Lord Jesus, by the Precious Blood You did shed in the Garden of Olives, take pity on all aspirants to the priesthood who, through the temptations of the evil one, or dread of the responsibilities of the sacred ministry, are in danger of losing their vocation. Impart to these tortured souls sufficient courage to make the sacrifices by which the Eucharistic Chalice must be purchased; and in return for their generosity, inebriate them at the altar with the Blood which, in Heaven, shall be their eternal source of delight.

Our Lady of the Precious Blood, watch over the living chalices of the Blood of Jesus. Amen."

~from Prayers for Priests and Those Destined for the Priesthood recited daily by the Handmaids of the Precious Blood as a closing prayer after Vespers
















(My son, John, adoring the Lord in Christ King Chapel at the Cousin's Center-photo courtesy of Kenny Urlakis)

My oldest son, John, was accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and God-willing he will begin the fall semester at St. Joseph's College Seminary at Loyola University in Chicago. I am as proud and happy as a mother could possibly be. But, I also feel a bit like the mother of St. James and St. John who begged the Lord to allow her sons to have a seat of honor in heaven. For years I have pleaded with God to draw all of my children close to His heart and when John first began to show an interest in the priesthood I prayed all the more. Now, my prayers must be even more fervent because although God has called my son to the priesthood and John has responded willingly, the life of a seminarian is not an easy one and it will take all that John has to give. He must drink from the chalice of suffering at every step and yet continue to joyfully carry on in his studies and preparation for the most sacred vocation of priesthood.

The emotions of a mother learning to let go of her son for service in the Church are many and varied. With this year's Diaconate Ordination scheduled for this coming Saturday, April 21st, where the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will witness five wonderful men (Patrick Joseph Burns, Philip James Schumaker, Arulananthan Ponnaiyan, Jorge Enrique Hernandez Castellanos and Paul Schneider-a Conventual Franciscan and Oblate of the Precious Blood) ordained to the transitional diaconate as their final step to priesthood, I recall last year's Diaconate Ordination and a story of a mother and son (who is set to be ordained to the priesthood this May) which had stirred my heart. Here is a repost of that story from April 16th, 2011:

The Fourth Station




















(image of the fourth Station of the Cross at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee)

Yesterday's beautiful Ordination Mass saw five fine young men take one step closer on their journey to the cross, the complete and total laying down of their lives for the Lord and His Church. At that Mass, hundreds of people welcomed Yamid Jose Blanco, Juan Manuel Comacho, Brad Alan Krawczyk, Ryan Joseph Preuss, and Hans Flondor of the Conventual Franciscan order, to the transitional diaconate and their final year of study and preparation for the priesthood.

Yamid is originally from Columbia, South America and his family traveled a great distance to be with him on this most special and important date. At the ordination Mass, the mothers of those receiving the Sacrament are asked to carry the gifts to the altar. After presenting the gifts, the mothers each had an opportunity to embrace their sons before once again taking their seats. From my vantage point far in the back of the church, I could sense that something was slightly amiss from the plan, things seemed to be taking longer than they should. As I strained to catch a better look I saw a touching moment of deep holiness that brought tears to my eyes and I'm sure to the eyes of many others who witnessed that scene. Long after all of the other mothers had taken their seats, one remained standing. Yamid's mother lingered, embracing her son while Archbishop Listecki patiently and lovingly looked on.

On Jesus' long and tortuous walk to his death, that same scene played out. Mary, after many years of only seeing her beloved son from a crowded and distant vantage point, who was often denied the close contact with her son to which she was so accustomed from His days of youth, was finally standing right in front of Him. Here at the Fourth Station, she could only embrace Him with her eyes, but oh, how her arms and heart must have ached to physically embrace him, to hold him up if only for a moment, to take some of his pain away. It was her moment of complete misery, to love Him so much but to have no choice other than to let Him go.

And here was Yamid's mother, at last after many years apart, able to reach out and hold her son. She knows that from now on, with each day that draws him closer to the priesthood, she will only see him from a crowded and distant vantage point. But at this moment when she met her son at the altar, her heart bursting with pride and joy and sorrow and love and every possible human emotion that a mother can have for her son, she held him long and close, knowing that beyond this Fourth Station he will be out of her hands and his life will no longer belong to her, but to God alone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Brother, The Pope-A Book Review























It's hard to believe that our Holy Father is now 85 years old having celebrated his birthday just yesterday! God bless him! It seems that those who are related to our famous religious leaders have been drawn to share their stories of what it was like to grow up with such saintly siblings. Recently Bob Dolan wrote a charming book, Life Lessons, about his brother Timothy Cardinal Dolan and now Georg Ratzinger has come out with My Brother, The Pope which is an equally enchanting and sweet book filled with his tender memories about growing up with Pope Benedict.

The book of memoirs written by the older brother of Pope Benedict opens our eyes to what it was like to grow up in the holy and faith-filled family that produced our current fabulous pope. It is filled with family photos that add vibrancy to the author's words.

I was most impressed to read about how the Ratzinger family suffered through World War II and about the rapid rise of the young priest, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, into the world of academics and faith. But what touched my heart most deeply were the references to Pope Benedict's love for bears beginning with his early childhood love for a toy teddy bear. It's the type of information that the world just would never learn about if there weren't a sibling willing to share those little life details.

I was deeply struck by Georg Ratzinger's recollections of meals that he personally ate that fondly remained in his heart so much so that he had to include the details in this book of memoirs. It seemed to me to be an unusual sharing of something that was personally significant to the author and it made me smile to think of how food and the sharing of a meal can have such an important place in all of our memories. Nearly every chapter contained a description of a memorable meal which the author enjoyed, such as this passage where he recounted a trip to attend his uncle's funeral after the family had been mistakenly led to believe that their father had died:

"...I accompanied him on that trip to Rickering, his birthplace. That same day, the clergy of the deanery met at the parish in Schwanenkirchen, and I was also invited to attend. "You sit here", they said, and then a wonderful Bavarian snack was served, which I ate with great relish: smoked meat (bacon), bread and butter, and a beer with it. Things like that leave an impression, you do not forget them for the rest of your life! But it all tasted twice as good because I was so relieved that our father was still alive."

I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Georg Ratzinger's frequent recollections of memorable meals and Bob Dolan's oft-mentioned stories of memorable drinks that he shared with his brother, Cardinal Dolan. And this was not the only part of Pope Benedict's and Cardinal Dolan's stories written by their brothers that seemed quite similar...

Throughout Life Lessons, Bob Dolan insists that his brother will never be Pope despite the fact that rumors are nearly always swirling about stating that Cardinal Dolan would make very good Pope material. Could that be because he harbors a fear that if his brother were to become Pope someday, he would lose the close relationship that he has always valued with his brother, that as Pope, Cardinal Dolan would have fewer opportunities to spend time with his family? That certainly seemed to be the concern of Georg Ratzinger when Pope John Paul II had become seriously ill during his final days of life:

"...I was repeatedly asked by people and by journalists too, whether my brother would become pope. My answer was always the same: "No, he certainly will not!"...

And his story about how he finally heard the news about his brother actually being chosen to be the successor to St. Peter was deeply touching:

"I even experienced the "Habemus Papem" live. At the time I was called by a journalist who said she had just heard that white smoke had gone up in Rome and wanted to hear from me whether I knew anything more specific. "No," I answered truthfully, "I know nothing." Then I turned on the television and heard it there, like everybody else....I must quite honestly say that at that moment I was rather disheartened. It was a great challenge, an enormous task for him, I thought, and I was seriously worried. I saw neither the pomp nor the beauty of it, but only the challenge of this office, which now demanded everything of him, and the burden it meant for him. And I was sad that now he would probably have no more time for me. So that evening I went to bed rather depressed."

I can't imagine what it must be like to have such a famous and well-loved brother, one you'd like to keep for yourself but instead must share with the world. But now through the words of Georg Ratzinger, I have a little better idea of who our beloved Pope Benedict really is and of how much he and his older brother and fellow priest value their close family relationship which from every aspect seemed to be formed through a normal family life filled with love and prayer.

I heartily enjoyed My Brother, The Pope, and read through it quickly and eagerly. I am confident that all those who open the pages of this book will be deeply drawn into the loving story of two brothers whose only life desire has been to serve the Lord through the use of their talents and to draw others closer to Him and to His wondrous love.

(If you are in the Milwaukee area, you may be interested in attending a book signing and discussion with Bob Dolan about his book Life Lessons at St. Francis de Sales Seminary on April 23rd. You can view the event details at the Vocations Office Website "Think Priest" which can be found at this link.)



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Confirmed!






















My son Justin received the Sacrament of Confirmation on April 14th through the hands of Archbishop Listecki. It was a blessedly memorable occasion to witness my son, after three years of preparation, being sealed with the fragrant Chrism which forever after marks him as God's precious and chosen son through the love of the Holy Spirit dwelling within his soul. The church was electric with Easter joy and the love of God during the three hour Mass. The word "heavenly" would be an accurate description of the atmosphere.

I was blessed to serve as a lector for the Mass and as I was standing near the altar during the Gloria and the sprinkling rite, the Archbishop didn't wave the asperger in my direction to bless me, instead, he put a bit of holy water on his fingers and then blessed me by making the sign of the cross directly on my forehead with the holy water. It reminded me of the many times I had made the same action of blessing my children with holy water when they were small and I felt like a little child again receiving a special blessing from my spiritual father.

My son Jack and my daughter Mary had been asked to serve at the Mass. Jack had served at the confirmation Mass last year when my son John was confirmed by Bishop Sklba but Mary had just been trained to be server last fall and has only served at Mass a handful of times so this was such an honor to be asked to serve for the Archbishop at this extra special occasion and she was very nervous. She was all wide-eyed and beautiful as she reverently attended to her duties at the altar for this very solemn occasion. I was so proud of both of my little servers.

Archbishop Listecki's homily was both entertaining and uplifting. He began by speaking about the importance of choosing a Confirmation name wisely. He shared a story of how his mother had wanted to name him Harry, after his father, but at his baptism the priest discouraged such a pagan name and told her to name him Jerome after that wise and knowledgeable saint. He said that he chose the name Lawrence for his Confirmation name so had he been named Harry he would have been Harry Edward Lawrence Listecki with the initials spelling HELL...o! Thank goodness my mom named me Jerome, he said, so now my initials spell JELL-o, and there's always room for jello!

Then he said that he was going to question the confirmands about their faith and he took one young lady by the hand and brought her up to the altar to question her. He said that one of the goals that many of the young people mentioned in their letters to him was that they hoped to become closer to God through the Sacrament of Confirmation. He told the young lady that as he reached for her hand he saw her look to heaven and say "Dear God, not me!" And her sponsor looked to heaven and said "Dear God, not her!" And everyone else looked up to heaven and said "Thank God it wasn't me!" So already you are all a little closer to God! Then he simply asked her to name the first Sacrament that a person receives and she correctly answered "baptism" and he then escorted her back to her seat explaining that the real questioning comes when they make their profession of faith.

He then went on to speak about the saints that the confirmands chose to be their lifetime guides and special friends by choosing their names for Confirmation. He said that many of those saints have died for the faith. He asked the confirmands if they are willing to die for their faith. He hoped that they would be willing to do that but more than that he wanted to know if they are willing to live for their faith.

At the end of his homily he stressed the importance of the cross as the sign of unconditional love and said that he wants everyone to retain the knowledge that no matter what happens to them in their lives God will always love them unconditionally. Then he thanked the parents of the confirmands for instilling the gift of faith in their children and for being willing to fight with their children to make sure they attend Mass each week and follow the teachings of the Catholic faith. Finally he thanked the confirmands. He told them that with their "yes" to Jesus they have enriched the Catholic faith for everyone.

At this point my husband Paul noticed me scribbling furiously in my journal during the Archbishop's homily and he leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Why don't you ever take notes when I talk to you?" :)

As each of the 66 confirmands approached the altar for the Sacrament, Archbishop Listecki took his time speaking individually to each of them asking them about the name that they have chosen for their confirmation and quizzing them with questions such as "Is St. Michael a male or a female?" The answer was neither since St. Michael is pure spirit without a gender. And for those who chose the name James he wanted to know if it was for St. James the Lesser or St. James the Greater. It was evident that he was enjoying the Confirmation process as he could be seen laughing all the while he was confirming the teens. The Archbishop did all he could to make sure that being confirmed in the faith would forever after be a life-changing and memorable Sacrament for those who received it.

And now my Justin is confirmed in the faith and he is so grateful to have received the Sacrament that has sealed him with the gift of the Holy Spirit. One more soul for the Lord! I rejoice and praise the Lord!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Upper Room






















While the early morning sun rises over the lake, casting pink and blue shadows across the sky, a small group of friends gather in a cozy little chapel hidden away in the heart of the city, to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. We listen to the stories of the early Church in this Octave of Easter and my imagination carries me back to that long ago place and time. In my heart our intimate gathering of prayer and devotion is really taking place in that upper room where the disciples of Christ first gathered in fear and trembling which turned to amazement at the sight of the Lord in their midst. The host is raised and my heart cries out "It is the Lord!" (John 21:7) Like the disciples, I, too, am incredulous for joy. (Luke 24:41) He speaks to me and says "Come, have breakfast" (John 21:12) and I partake of His body and blood.

Oh Lord, make my heart an upper room where You appear and hold dominion. Fill me with Your grace so that, like the first apostles, I may carry Your presence in my heart, sharing You with all those I meet throughout the course of the day, filling the world with Your love and peace. Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blown Out Into the Deep

"Master, who came that we might have life more abundantly, we ask You to enlighten the minds and hearts of those blinded to the truth that life begins at conception and that the unborn in the womb are already adorned with Your image and likeness; enable us to guard, cherish and protect the lives of all those who are unable to care for themselves. For You are the Giver of Life, bringing each person from non-being into being, sealing each person with divine and infinite love.

Be merciful, Lord, to those who, through ignorance or willfulness, affront your divine goodness and providence through the evil act of abortion. May they, and all of us, come to the life of Your Truth and glorify You, the Giver of Life, together with Your Father, and Your All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen."


~from The Order of the Office of Prayer and Supplication for the Victims of Abortion Prayed to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ of the Orthodox Church









(Photo from Ash Wednesday prayer service with Archbishop Listecki-my sons Justin, Joe and John are standing to the left of the Archbishop)


The Holy Spirit has been moving me to spend more time praying for the sanctity of life outside of our local abortuary. The above prayer is part of a prayer service that was lovingly held by Fr. Gregory Madlom and Deacon Henry Shirley from St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church in West Bend, WI every Sunday afternoon during Lent at the abortion mill in Milwaukee as part of 40 Days for Life. I was so honored to participate in some of those prayer services. Fr. Gregory and Deacon Henry would fully vest and perfume the death-filled air with the sweetness of incense while chanting the entire 30 minute prayer service. It was a beautiful plea and public witness for the salvation of the lives lost and for an end to abortion.

A few weeks ago Jack and Mary and I ran over to the grocery store for a few things and as we were leaving a woman came out from between some parked cars and she asked me if I could help her. She said she was homeless and she asked for some money. Her teeth were black and her hair was greasy and her clothes were worn and she seemed as if she was mentally unstable. She told me that she was diabetic and needed food and that she was so cold. Mary and Jack were very frightened by her and Mary said I was the bravest person she knows because I calmly spoke with her and gave her $5.00. Later, my husband wondered if she just went into the liquor store to buy some beer with that $5.00 and I replied that there are an awful lot of times when I could just use a beer, too, so if that's what the money went for because it was what she most needed, then it was ok with me!

At one of my most recent prayer vigils at the abortion mill I realized that standing on the edge of a busy street holding a "Pray for an end to abortion" sign is a lot like being homeless and asking for a handout. You are so vulnerable standing there with the deathscorts sneering at you and people swearing at you as they drive past. And then one of my favorite quotes by Bishop Hying came to my mind:

"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."

And as I stood on the edge of the street I thought, here I am blown out to the deep! It's an awfully scary place to be! There's nothing to do here but hold onto Christ and trust! I have no idea what in the world I am doing as I stand there and pray but I know that I have to be there!

It brought me to realize that those who are homeless and whose entire days are made up of begging to meet their needs are the ones who are really brave. It's difficult to ask for help and to let strangers see your need, exposing yourself to the many rude comments of those who see in the beggar just a useless and wasted life. How similar that viewpoint is to those who work in or favor the abortion industry. For them, life is not valued but instead is scorned as having little use.

So I pray for more brave souls to stand up for the value of all life-for the homeless, the helpless, the disabled, the unborn, the tired, the lonely, the lost, the forsaken, the elderly, the downcast and despairing, the weak and the sick. All of these suffering souls bear the wounds of the Lord; they are walking crucifixes in life's long journey. His fire burns somewhere deep within their souls whether they are aware of it or not. May we never allow any human person to feel that they are a "non-being" because of our lack of love and compassion. May we all allow the Holy Spirit to "blow us out to the deep" in His service.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Veronica's Veil

"Sorrowful Mother, lift my soul as a Veronica's veil to the outraged face of Jesus. Beg him to leave thereon the image of His Holiness and Beauty so clearly impressed that the beauty of creatures may not draw me from my allegiance to the beauty of Christ."
~Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP














On a distant lenten Sunday my heart broke right open and tears fell hard, body shaking with the effort of holding back sobs. I took my pain to church and spilled it out to God.

And a woman, a true Veronica, seeing my distress, intuitively understood that my lament was that of a mother for her child. She reached out to my bent over body and gently offered me a holy card with an embedded medal of Our Mater Dolorosa, Our Mother of Sorrows within it. "Something just told me to give you this," she said. And then she walked away while the words "thank you" were still warm upon my lips.

It was such a simple act. Such a loving act. She knew that my heavenly mother who suffered the most horrific pain any woman has ever endured would also understand and comfort me in my own pain. This Veronica's act reminded me to cling to my Blessed Mother who loves me so. Her holy card was a veil of love offered to one who suffers in Christ. I believe that His sacred image has been impressed forever after upon her beautiful soul and I, in return, hope to become a Veronica for others, allowing Jesus to impress His image upon my soul as well. Oh that we would all carry his beautiful countenance upon our souls-how lovely this world would become!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Heart on Fire-A Book Review



















There have been more than a few occasions in the past where I have written on this blog about my friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, who is the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer. I have shared how Fr. Jim came to my house to say Mass and help my family enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus as King of our home and how on another occasion he visited our home to say Mass and help me become enrolled as a candidate for the Oblates of the Precious Blood. I am blessed to know such a good and holy priest who is truly devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to his work in assisting Pope Benedict XVI to increase prayer throughout the world through the Apostleship of Prayer's daily Morning Offering. Fr. Jim is a much sought-after retreat leader, a Catholic radio and television personality and a wonderful friend and mentor to me and to so many people whose hearts burn with love for the Lord and His holy Church. And now Fr. Jim can add "author" to the list of the many and varied ways that he serves the Lord.

It is with great joy that I share my thoughts on Fr. Jim's newest success-the recent publishing of his first book, A Heart on Fire, Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In A Heart on Fire, Fr. Jim delves into the history of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus tracing it's roots back beyond St. Margaret Mary and her call to bring attention and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Returning to the earliest days of the Church and Christ's demand to St. Paul to stop persecuting Him through his torment of the members of His Church, Fr. Jim shows how devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is based on the Word of God and is first and foremost a Eucharistic Devotion which is just as relevant today as it was throughout all of Church history. Fr. Jim shows how the Heart of Christ continues to be in need of our prayers of reparation for sin and how His Heart desires our loving union with Him. He shares several ways that we can live out our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through prayer and good works in this current age.

At the end of each chapter, Fr. Jim shares a prayer exercise that deepens our understanding and love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He gently guides the reader through a meditation with an image of the Sacred Heart, through a scriptural Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a historical perspective of prayers from some of the great saints of the Church, a lectio divina exercise, suggestions for a Eucharistic Holy Hour, prayers of reparation, the morning offering and a family Consecration Prayer Service.

A Heart on Fire is complete with some wonderful full-color images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The artwork showcases pieces that are both rare and precious including a deeply touching picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was carved by a Polish lieutenant awaiting execution at Auschwitz.

I wholeheartedly recommend A Heart on Fire. It is simple and easy to understand for those who are new to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as enlightening in new and wonderful ways for those who already have an understanding of and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Reading A Heart on Fire will ignite the fire of your own love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus which has so loved men from the very beginning of time until ages unending.

To order your own copy of A Heart on Fire visit Ave Maria Press or the Apostleship of Prayer.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Transparent

"Bury your fear in faith. Otherwise you bury your talents." ~Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience















In the mid-winter bleakness fear overtook my heart. I considered the word transparent and suddenly I felt naked and unprotected against the elements of pride and vanity. Fear of failure and of the possibility of hurting others with my words gripped my heart with its icy fingers. For three years I pounded out my life on this keyboard for all the world to see and to know me, to really know me. Was I really writing for God, I now wondered, or was I writing for myself? And suddenly I began to feel very uncomfortable with the somebody that I was and that I put on display for the world to know. I found that when I would run into people I hadn't seen in a while I'd have nothing to tell them because they knew all about me from reading my blog. I felt a strange sort of public loneliness and emptiness. And then Lent came along so I decided to take my words and my desire to be known into the desert of privacy for a time.

And when I walked away from this blog, the devil came along. He tempted me to quit writing for good by telling me that I was self-centered, that my reasons for writing weren't valid, that I didn't really please God. He convinced me that I had made on idol out of myself with my words here. He pointed out that there are plenty of far better Catholic writers in the blogosphere to which people could turn for inspiration and information than me. He whispered in his disgustingly evil yet surprisingly believable voice that I would be better off deleting Imprisoned in my Bones and all of the words it contains and never writing again. And so little by little I began to delete posts here and there. More than half of what I wrote in January and February is now gone.

I believed him when he said that my writing wasn't really making a difference in the world, that I was only wasting my time. He pointed out how much more time I had for truly good things like caring for my family by giving them more attention, caring for my body with exercise and caring for my soul with prayer. He made sense and I easily fell for his lies. But the devil is so good at poisoning souls with despair and I could not let him have his way with me. It's true that without this blog I had much less anxiety in my life, but, without this blog I felt like an empty, shallow shell of the Anne who loved to write and share her faith, the Anne who believed that she could make a difference in the world simply by writing about her experience of God within the Catholic faith tradition.

Thankfully, I was not alone in my lenten battle against the devil because Jesus was always right by my side offering me His abiding love and grace, inviting me into the safety and warmth of His Most Sacred Heart where I was warmed and strengthened and encouraged. And He has brought me the conviction that I should continue to write, but maybe not so much. I will continue to spill my soul in a public fashion in the hope that someone, even if it's only a single someone, will be drawn to a deeper love of God through my humble words. And I will do my best to always remember that whether or not I am known, whether or not I am too transparent in my words and whether or not writing satisfies some deep need within me, the only true and holy reason for writing this blog is to share my faith with you. And if through my words I am able to inspire you to love God more fully, to pray more deeply and to live your faith more truly, then it will all be worth it. So here I am on the other side of lent laughing at the devil with a Risus Paschalis, a hearty Easter laugh. Jesus lives and I just have to tell you about it!

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you were also able to cling to the love of God and resist the tempter during your sojourn in the lenten desert, however you may have experienced it. Let's laugh and be joyful together, my friend. Let's cast out fear and be blessedly transparent as we share our gifts because we live in the light of the risen Savior and he will make all of our deserts blossom with love!

Wishing you a joyous Easter!!! Like the Easter Candle, let us mingle with the lights of heaven, transparently spreading the joy, hope, peace and love of the Risen Christ to all!