Thursday, April 14, 2016

Philip's Rejoicing Eunuch

"When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing."  ~from Acts 8:26-40

Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch

"Every new beginning is some other beginning's end." ~Seneca

Each year during the Easter season, when this joyful reading about Philip explaining a passage of Isaiah to an Ethiopian eunuch is proclaimed at daily Mass, my heart always feels a little pang of sorrow for Philip and the eunuch at the fact that their encounter was so brief,  I tend to focus on their sudden separation rather than the fact that the eunuch was rejoicing over his new faith and baptism.  He wasn't crying for sorrow when Philip was snatched away.  I pray that God could give me that same spirit of rejoicing at the life passages and changes that come my way.  Yet, my melancholy spirit rarely finds joy in letting go, even when that letting go is a natural consequence of new and beautiful life joys.

"Keep silent:  smile quietly when a treasured trifle is taken from you and causes you pain.  When things go of themselves, let them go-they leave you God." ~a Carthusian

I suppose my sorrow is natural, after all change is never easy whether it be a close friend moving far away to start a fresh and exciting life, a child growing up, marrying and starting a family of their own, a decline in our health and our ability to be as productive as we would like, or any other number of life changes and losses both minor and significant. But God is doing something new and wonderful in those times when someone or something is snatched away from us, even though, in our limited human minds and hearts, we might not be able to see or understand what it might be.  He is all we need cling to when what we are comfortable with and enjoy is snatched away from us, and in His time He will lead us to new life; He will mercifully show us His plans for our prosperity and eternal happiness.  

"There is resurrection everywhere." Caryll Houselander

I want to take the rejoicing eunuch as a role model and look for comfort in the little resurrections of daily life-the sunrise, a bird singing in the early morning, a new baby cooing, and daffodils unfolding as they push their way through the hard winter ground. There is always something new and fresh with God.  His ways of revealing Himself to us are many and varied.  May all our eyes be open to the new life that God wishes to bless us with as we let go of what was and accept what is with grace and joy like Philip's rejoicing eunuch.


"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"~Isaiah 43:19

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day of Divine Mercy

The door of St. Francis Friary in
Burlington, Wisconsin
Now that my daughter is a thriving teenager, mother/daughter moments aren't as frequent as they once had been.  Life is busy and full and beautiful for both of us, so I'm definitely grateful for any opportunity that we have to spend time together.

Nearly seven years ago, when Mary was just eight-years-old, she and I had just learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet while attending a Roses for Our Lady holy hour for vocations at St. Francis de Sales Seminary where the prayer is regularly chanted.  Mary was charmed by the chant and days later I would find her carrying our family crucifix around the living room and singing "For the sake of the sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."  I thought that we could both use some practice praying this beautiful prayer that was new to us so we decided to have a special mother/daughter afternoon together searching for sea glass on Lake Michigan, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet together, and topping the day off with a visit to an ice cream parlor, or as Mary said, "All things Catholic!"

Since the seminary is directly across the street from sea glass beach, we planned a walk through the seminary woods to the Marian grotto to pray the chaplet after sea glassing.  Mary had been walking in front of me and as we turned the corner to reach the grotto I heard Mary gasp with joy and then she started running to the grotto.  When I caught up to her I saw the reason for her happiness-our friend, Bishop Donald Hying, (then still Fr. Don) was sitting on a bench in the grotto praying the rosary.  He stayed and prayed the chaplet with us, making it an extra special prayer.  I wrote a poem about that special day here.

Earlier this month, when Divine Mercy Sunday came and I found that for the first time ever we didn't have other plans that kept us from celebrating this day, I wanted to do something special and was so grateful that Mary could join me in the celebration.  The weather was unusually warm and windy as we made the forty minute drive to the Franciscan Friary in Burlington.  We had never been there before but a friend of ours had told us that Bishop Hying, who is now the Bishop of Gary, Indiana, would be presiding at Mass there and since we hadn't seen our favorite bishop in quite a few months we thought this would be a beautiful opportunity to pray with him.  At the time I hadn't really considered the fact that he had been an important part of my daughter and I first learning the Divine Mercy Chaplet all those years ago.

The Friary grounds
We arrived at the beautiful Friary about ninety minutes before Mass would start and saw that the grounds were especially beautiful and could see an outdoor Stations of the Cross so we took a little prayerful walk before going to the Friary for the chaplet, confession and Mass.   Not only did the grounds boast the Stations of the Cross, but we also found a Portiuncula (small portion of land) of St. Francis that was open for exploring and prayer, as well as a magnificent Marian grotto, much larger than the one at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, that included all of the mysteries of the rosary embedded in the walls.  This grotto, however, was missing a Fr. Don sitting in prayer, but just the sight of it reminded me of that day so many years ago and  I realized how this Divine Mercy Sunday had brought my daughter and I full circle with all three elements-the two of us, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Bishop Hying-all together on the same day in the same place.

The day was perfect, rounded out with the kept promise of powerful prayer for some special priests as well as finding many good friends who had also made the trip to the Friary for the special afternoon.  How sweet is the mercy of the Lord, allowing moments of reminiscing and friendship to be a part of potent and jubilant prayer and bringing joy to the hearts of mothers and their daughters!

Jesus, I trust in you!

The Twelfth Station of the Cross-Jesus Dies on the Cross
The Marian Grotto
The First Glorious Mystery at the grotto-The Resurrection

The Portiuncula of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi in the Portiuncula

The beautiful altar inside the church-see St. Francis helping Jesus down from the cross?

Bishop Hying blesses the image of Divine Mercy

Our Lady Gate of Dawn icon inside the church-

From Wikipedia: The icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn has become associated with the messages of Divine Mercy. Eight years after the icon was conferred the title of Mother of Mercy, the first exposition of the Divine Mercy image, painted by Eugene Kazimierowski under the direction of Saint Faustina Kowalska, took place at the chapel on April 1935.  In her Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, she writes of a mystical experience involving the icon in the Gate of Dawn chapel. On 15 November 1935, Saint Faustina was at the Gate of Dawn chapel participating in the last day of the novena before the feast day of the icon, 16 November. She writes of seeing the icon taking on "a living appearance" and speaking to her, telling her "accept all that God asked of me like a little child, without questioning; otherwise it would not be pleasing to God.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Beautiful Sacrament/Beautiful Milwaukee Church

In January of 2013 I wrote a blog post on the Seven Most Beautiful Churches in Milwaukee.  I know I missed a few in that list and that there are many more beautiful churches that I have not yet seen and don't know about, but now I can add St. Michael's Church on 24th and Vliet to that list and make it at least eight beautiful churches, until I have the opportunity to visit others.  

Although we are parishioners at Old St. Mary Parish, my son Jack was the only teen being confirmed from our parish this year, and several other east and north side parishes had small numbers of confirmands as well, so the celebration was combined and held at St. Michael's Church where seventy-five youth were confirmed by Archbishop Listecki. 

The newly confirmed, Jack Thomas, (right) and his sponsor, Joe, pose with Archbishop Listecki

Conversation with Archbishop Listecki while our pastor, Fr. Tim Kitzke, looks on.

Before the Mass began we were given a brief overview of St. Michael's Church which was built by German immigrants and is now home to a multi-cultural community of Laotian, Hmong, Karen, and Spanish members, among others.  The church interior is stunningly magnificent with much of its original beauty left intact, although it did seem as though some modifications and modernizations were made in the sanctuary.

The church was packed with people and excitement.  The music was a mix of both traditional and contemporary which added a joyful atmosphere of prayer during the three-hour-long Mass and celebration of the Sacrament.  Archbishop Listecki likes to speak individually to each confirmand during the celebration and those conversations were not amplified so the singing kept the little ones (and adults) from becoming restless during the long process of Confirmation.  During Jack's conversation with the Archbishop, he shared that he chose to keep his baptismal name, Thomas, as his confirmation name because St. Thomas the Apostle, much like Jack, was strong in faith but short on words, saying only "My Lord and My God" upon coming to believe that Jesus was truly risen. 

Jack was well-prepared, excited and eager to receive the Sacrament. We hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will bless his life and guide his every move forever.  

(For a fun gift that we hope will help him to remember the anointing he received each time he applies it to his budding facial hair, we gave Jack  Barbatus Catholic Beard Balm in both Chrism and Holy Smokes scents.)

St. Michael's Church, Milwaukee
St. Michael's, interior

The First Station of the Cross-Jesus is Condemned to Death

The Marian Altar

soaring stained glass


smiling brothers