Thursday, December 31, 2009

Saturday Evening Blog Post


Once again I am joining in Elizabeth Esther's Saturday Evening Blog Post. This month instead of contributing our favorite post from last month, she is asking us to share our favorite post from the last year. I chose to share Jesus Freak from last July. I think this post describes who I am very well, and I suspect it describes many of my readers as well. Sharing our faith with others is so very important,even, and sometimes especially, when it is difficult and we are ridiculed for it. God bless you all in your efforts to share your love of God and Christianity with others.

Mary's Lullaby/Feast of Mary, Mother of God

When my children were babies, one of my favorite lullabies to sing to them as they drifted off to sleep was Away in the Manger. Last week, my daughter Mary wasn't feeling very well, and she laid down on the couch to take a nap. I sat next to her and sang her this familiar carol to lull her into pleasant dreams. It got me wondering what kind of lullabies our Blessed Mother might have sung to the baby Jesus...






















Close your tired eyes, my child
and a lullaby I'll croon
As I stroke your golden hair
shimmering in the light of the moon.

I pray that God will hold you
so closely to His heart
until the sun arises
and another day will start.


My prayer for you...

May our Blessed Mother sing many sweet lullabies for you in this New Year and fill you with peaceful dreams of heaven. Amen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pierced by the Sword of Motherhood

“And a sword will pierce even your own soul.” Luke 2:35

I have a friend from work who recently delivered her first baby early in Advent. I treasure the memory of the moment when she first told me that she was pregnant. Lissa’s office is right across the hall from mine, and we will often just lean back in our chairs and talk across the hall to one another. If something is really important, however, we get out of our chairs and walk over to each others offices to share our stories. Last spring was one such occasion. Lissa walked into my office, quietly asked if she could tell me something, and then pulled an ultrasound picture out from behind her back! She was already three months pregnant before she told anyone!

Keep reading...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Eucharistic Miracle
























One of my favorite blogs, Offer it Up, is written by Fr. James Kubicki who is the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer stationed in Milwaukee, WI. He recently made a trip to Fatima and wrote about it on his blog. While in Portugal, he visited the city of Santarem to see the Eucharistic Miracle. Fr. James said "We were able to climb behind the high altar and venerate at closehand the miracle of a Host that turned to flesh and blood."

I had never heard of this before, but found his story and picture of the Miracle so fascinating, that I had to learn more about it! When I showed this picture to my husband Paul, he said, "If more people saw this, they would have to believe." It is in the spirit of bringing others to believe, that I am sharing what I have learned.

"The story of the miracle centers on an early-13th-century woman with an unfaithful husband. Desperate to regain his faithfulness and save her marriage, she consulted a sorceress. The sorceress said she would cure the husband's infidelity for the price of a consecrated host (Eucharistic wafer). After much deliberation, the woman decided to commit the sacrilege.

The next time she attended Mass at the 12th-century Church of St. Stephen, she took the consecrated wafer from her mouth, wrapped it in a veil and headed quickly for the door. But before she had taken more than a few steps, the host began to bleed. It bled so much that concerned parishioners thought she had cut her hand and attempted to help, but she ran out of the church.

Back at home, she threw the bloody host in a trunk in her bedroom. Her husband did not come home until late, as usual. In the middle of the night, they were both awoken by a mysterious light emanating from the trunk. The woman confessed to her husband what she had done and they both knelt in repentance before the miracle. The next morning, the couple told the parish priest what had happened. The priest placed the miraculous host in a wax container and returned it to the Church of St. Stephen. Word spread quickly, and the townspeople hurried to the church to see the miracle.

The next time the priest opened the tabernacle that contained the miraculous host, another miracle occurred! The wax container was found broken into pieces, and the host was enclosed in a crystal pyx. This pyx was placed in a silver monstrance, where it can be seen today.

After an investigation, the Catholic Church approved the recognition of the miracle. The Church of St. Stephen was renamed the Church of the Holy Miracle, and it is one of Portugal's most-visited pilgrimage sites. St. Francis Xavier visited the Church of the Holy Miracle before setting off for missionary work in India.

The church was rebuilt in the 16th century." (From Sacred Destinations)


What I find to be most amazing about this story, is the fact that the woman and man to whom the miracle occurred didn't seem to be especially holy, in fact extramarital affairs and sorcery aren't usually the stuff of holiness, are they? I love that God will use anybody in any situation, to draw others to Himself. We truly have a beautiful God of surprises!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Awaiting the Unseen


In these final days of Advent waiting,
I wonder how you will come to me, Lord.
What will you look like?
How will I know you?

My heart grows impatient,
although I’m not sure what it is so impatient for.
A veil of darkness covers you; I can’t see you.
But, I am sure that when I do,
this wait will prove to have been worth it.

Come to me soon, God, show Yourself to me.
Lift the veil that hides Your mystery.

Bring me Your light, Your love.
Radiate around me and within me.
Fill me with joy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sabbath Sunday/Witness to Grace

Fr. Christian Mathis at Blessed is the Kingdom, has a weekly day of rest MEME called Sabbath Sunday. He invites us to republish a previous post and take the day off. I wrote this particular story last winter and thought that it is very fitting to the season, so I am sharing it once again.

Witness to Grace

It was a typical morning in our household. It began with the daily frantic rush to get five kids dressed, breakfast eaten and out the door by 6:45 so we would be on time for daily Mass before school and work. I stood at the door as usual waiting for my children to make their way out the door so I could ensure that everything was locked up and secure before we left. I grimaced at the snow still piled up at the edges of the porch and along the sides of the path. I admit that I have a bit of my father in me, and I like a clean sidewalk after a snowfall. I hate thinking about tracking snow and salt in the house, and I worry about the mailman slipping as he climbs our front steps to deliver our mail. I had asked my 13 year old, Justin, who usually loves to shovel and takes it upon himself to chip away the ice without being asked, to do a better job cleaning the snow off the sidewalks the day before, to which he promptly ignored my request. Now as we were in a hurry to leave and I noticed the job was undone, I offered a snappy criticism to my son who immediately took offense at my words.

As we raced down the city streets, one eye on the clock, the other on the traffic, I could feel the beginnings of a bad day grabbing hold of my spirit. Once we arrived at church, two of the boys were arguing, my daughter, Mary, was crying about her backpack, my son, Joe, was complaining once again about why we have to attend daily Mass, and Justin was shooting me dirty looks.

I always feel that the daily Mass helps me get my day off to a good start and keeps my focus on Jesus. But today, it didn’t seem to be helping. The kids were squirming and whispering and I felt irritated rather than peaceful. Justin always has to leave Mass a few minutes early to get to his cadet post on time, and usually gives me a hug and kiss goodbye as he leaves. Not today. He left without so much as a glance in my direction. I felt the tears begin to sting my eyes, as the teenage years seemed to loom forever in the future. I was failing to feel any grace in this moment. What I was really feeling was the disgrace of self-pity. I was wondering why do I bother to drag the kids to daily Mass when they don’t appreciate it and would probably rather not be there. Why don’t I just let everyone sleep for another half hour and avoid this daily struggle? Why bother?

Then in the corner of my eye, I noticed someone new in church, someone who wasn’t part of the “regular” morning crowd of elderly people. He stood out with his long straggly hair. While I was waiting for my daughter to zip her jacket and grab her backpack, I saw this stranger talking to the priest. I heard Father give a hearty “yes!” and I watched the two of them walk together to the confessional. This was a moment of grace for that man, for the priest, and also for me, the witness. At the sight of this repentant sinner, this lost sheep, this prodigal son returning to his home, the church, my heart expanded in love. It made all of my petty complaints of this early morning feel so shallow and meaningless. My mind returned to the words of this morning’s first reading from Isaiah 41, “Fear not, I will help you. The hand of the Lord has done this; the Holy One of Israel has created it.” And I did feel helped. I could see the hand of the Lord on this man and on me. I knew I had nothing to fear, that my day would turn out all right and my teenagers would turn out all right because the hand of the Lord will see to it, and he will help us.

I went home to quickly clear the sidewalks before work with a new perspective. I know that no matter what I encounter, even icy sidewalks and rebellious teenagers, that God will help me, and I am grateful. My life is surrounded by grace, and I am simply a witness.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Praise for More Love

"Real love hurts. We must love until it hurts." Mother Teresa

Sometimes praise comes hard. This is a hard praise.

Yesterday, I received the news that one of my friends at work has suffered the loss of her husband this past Thursday. Suicide. My friend, along with her 18-year-old son and her 20-year-old daughter, found him dead inside their home. Their love couldn't save him. My friend is a sweet, strong and loving person. She is always thinking of others and doing for others. She has great love. I haven't been a very good friend to her. I didn't know that her family was suffering so much. I never reached out to her to ask about her life. Her office was down the hall from mine, and I didn't take the time to walk down the hall and get to know her better. It would have been so easy for me, but I didn't do it. Would showing my love for her by spending more time with her have changed anything in her life? I don't know. But knowing that we are loved has to help. I do love my friend. Today, I am hurting for her. I want to do more for her and I resolve to love her more from now on.

We were supposed to have our office Christmas party yesterday, but none of us felt like celebrating so we canceled it. I went to a small adoration chapel to spend some time with the Lord. I was in the front row, so close to the Monstrance that I could almost touch it. Was my mind playing tricks on me, allowing me to see what I was longing to see? The light cast a shadow on the the Host, and it looked as if I could see the outline of a person in the wafer. I decided it was Jesus. Jesus showed himself to me in the form of a man in the Host yesterday. I always have believed that He is truly present there, but to "see" Him, when I really needed Him was a great comfort.

I love the silence of adoration and am always hoping that I will "hear" Him speak to me. I never feel as though I do. But yesterday, I was sure I did. What I heard Him say was "Love more. Let it hurt."

Isn't that exactly what Jesus did? He loved us more and more until He hurt with the pain of crucifixion. Would it really be so hard for me to spend more time with others, showing my love in a real and tangible way, instead of hiding within myself, nursing my own wounds? I believe that this is what Jesus was telling me to do during my time with Him in adoration.

Jesus, I praise you because you "loved more". Help me to also "love more". Let me love others until it hurts. Amen.

(Thanks to Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for this MEME.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Cardinal


















What is it about the song of the cardinal that always stops me in my tracks? His voice, full of praise for God, speaks to me. No matter what I may be doing, I must stop and look for that royal red bird that calls out so strong and clear.

Sometimes he's found on an electric wire, his bright red feathers standing out against the pale blue sky. Other times, he is hidden in the branches of the tree and I can barely detect his presence but for his loud call that gives his hiding place away.

It's as if hearing him isn't enough. I must see him as well. Once I've rested my eyes upon his regal sight, with that crown of feathers pointing up to heaven, I can continue again with my busyness. Now I'm content to listen to his voice calling out songs of praise to God, and my heart sings along.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Joyful Mystery on Gaudete Sunday

Our parish youth group met this past Sunday. Paul and I are on the advisory committee that helps to plan, prepare and chaperone the teens’ events. We began our Gaudete Sunday celebration by attending Mass together as a group, families and teens together. The teens were invited to carry the Rose-colored Advent Candle to the front of church during the entrance procession and to place it in the Advent Wreath. As they stood in front of church, their beautiful smiles lit up the house of prayer as much as the flames flickering on the Advent Wreath!

That evening we gathered again at church to pray at a Taize Prayer Service. During that hour of beautiful chanted hymns by candlelight, our group of 15 teens and several other family members were blessed by peaceful Taize chant and prayerful silence. As I sat in front of the Holy Family Icon, I prayed for my own family. I asked God to bless us with our own special form of holiness and I felt joy well up inside of me as I focused on my blessings, knowing that God heard my prayer and would help us to model our lives on that of the Holy Family.

As we left the church to walk over to the parish center, flakes of pure, white snow were silently falling from the night sky. I felt it was a gift from heaven, God’s own way of silently rejoicing.

Upon entering the parish center, our group decorated Christmas cookies that I had baked earlier in the week. My sixteen-year-old son, John, spontaneously arose from his chair, embraced me, and said, “I love you, Mom!” Our youth minister, standing nearby, became teary-eyed at that sight. She spoke of how her four-year-old son is very open about showing affection and she only hopes that he will continue to be affectionate well into his teen years. I cannot remember any time when I had ever felt so proud. That moment was followed by another beautiful sight, as I saw my daughter Mary climb into 14-year-old Justin’s lap to snuggle during a Christmas movie.

I know that God answered my prayer that night, and in an immediate way. My children love Paul and I, and they love each other, and there is nothing holier than that! I often ponder the mystery of how God could come to bless me with five wonderful children and a loving spouse when I so often let Him down with sin. I catch myself in mistakes over and over again, especially mistakes of harshness towards my children, and coldness towards my husband, and yet, they keep showering me with nothing but love and warmth. My family is a reflection of God’s love for me through their generous gifts of loving words and actions that they share so frequently and openly. It is a Joyful Mystery and all I can do in response is rejoice! Gaudete!

Framed!



















cold dark blackness of night
brilliantly framed by
bright sunrise and sunset

fire in the sky burns radiant and warm
to color our day with flames of
pink, yellow and purple
that blend into brilliant, endless blue

God frames our day with love
from the beginning through the end
and seals it in the colors of the sky

the Master Craftsman
creates the art of life
and surrounds it
with an intensely vivid frame

How I love living
in His Divine Masterpiece!

(The image is by Mike Fisk. In 2007 a sailboat was stranded in the ice of Lake Michigan off the shores of Milwaukee. This photograph captured the scene so beautifully!)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Change of Heart

“A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work on the farm today.’ ‘I won’t,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father told the youngest, ‘You go!’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t. Which of the two was obeying his father?” Matthew 21:28-31



Sometimes we try to shut out the word of God and His will for us while we enjoy the indulgence of worldly pleasures. We pray with St. Augustine, “Lord, make me chaste, just not yet!” In this season of silent waiting, sometimes it is God who patiently waits for us to accept His will for our life.


Thirteen years ago I was pregnant with my third son in three years. I had just quit my job to stay home with the babies, when my husband lost his job. Frantically worried...keep reading...



Praise for Miracles!


This morning eight year old Mary came downstairs early in the morning and climbed into bed with Paul and I to snuggle. I told her that today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and asked her if she knew the story.

She began to tell me about the peasant, Juan Diego and how he had a vision of Mary but nobody believed him. Then, after he picked the roses that were growing in December and carefully placed them in his tilma, an even greater miracle appeared. A perfect image of Mary remained on his tilma and it still is perfect today. After that, everyone believed him. We discussed the fact that one of the most beautiful aspects of her appearance to Juan Diego was that he was a peasant, an ordinary person, just like us. For us that means that Mary is here for all of the little, simple, ordinary people living their every day lives. She is here for me and for you.

We talked some more about how Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as a pregnant woman when Juan Diego saw her and that today she is the protector of all unborn babies. Mary wondered why people can kill sweet little babies. Then she broke my heart by telling me something that I didn't know. Last October as our family stood on the busy highway holding pro-life signs for "Respect Life Sunday", a woman drove past Mary and called out "I kill babies all the time, freaks!" Mary held that hurt inside for two months without ever telling me about it. We decided that we don't want to dwell on our hurts or on people who are mean, we want to focus on our blessings.

That led us to a discussion of all of the miraculous things that God has done and continues to do that so many people take for granted. We don't want to take miracles for granted. Mary and I choose to praise God for each and every miracle he sends us, each and every day. Starting now, and here is the beginning of our list...

Praise God for the miraculous workings of the human body.

Praise God for the miraculous orbit of the planets and moon.

Praise God for the miraculous rising and setting of the sun each day.

Praise God for the miracle of grass growing in the summer.

Praise God for the miracle of rain pouring from the sky.

Praise God for the miracle of love.

Praise God for the miracle of Christ within us.

Praise God for the miraculous changing of bread and wine into the very Body and Blood of Jesus within the beautiful hands of the priest at every Mass.

Praise God for the shape of angels appearing in our bowl of cereal at breakfast. (Is it a miracle or did Mary shape it herself? She won't say...)

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

(Join this MEME at Jennifer's My Chocolate Heart)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter Winds and Inner Peace








While on my knees
in adoration of the Blessed Lord
I heard the winter winds
swirl viciously
around the chapel.
They whistled and howled and
did their best to come inside
through any slight
crack in the stained glass windows,
but to no avail.
The wind stayed out.
Inside the chapel there was nothing
but peaceful bliss with the Lord.









I want to be like that adoration chapel.
Let the vicious winds of life
swirl all around me.
Nothing will ever come inside to disturb
my inner peace
because the Lord is there
and with Him,
all is bliss.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guest Post/The Birth of a Special Website

This January will mark the one year anniversary of A Vocation to be a Priest Website, a very special site written by and for teens who are discerning a call to the priesthood. In honor of this special occasion, I asked John H. the co-founder and webmaster of the site to write a little reflection for my blog about the website...


"Anyone who reads Anne's excellent blog will be aware (via her kind comments and link) that there is a special site on the internet for vocations to the priesthood run by a group of teenagers and includes Anne's son John(Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call)as the Prayer & Reflection Editor. How and why did it start? I bumped into the co-founder, Dario, in cyberspace. I live in England and he in Hawaii, but we soon discovered we had a lot in common. Although we are just 16, we first felt called to become priests when we were 12! As we approach the site's first birthday, we are both astounded by the support we have been given and the direction the site has taken. Initially Dario and I just wanted a simple site in which we both told our stories that it is OK to be a teen and thinking about being a priest. That was it - make the point and then sit back! But the Lord seems to have had other plans. Other discerners wanted to add their own stories - from Australia to the USA and England to South Africa. We added more and more content and most recently we started a forum. Our reviewers include several vocations directors, one of whom said 'What a fantastic initiative'! I like to think that it works alongside the vocations sites run by adults, but I still think teens can witness best to other teens.

The internet is a fabulous place to position a vocations site. Young people may be too scared to ask their parents or priests for advice - here you can glean whatever information you need without fear; you can make up your mind, pray and reflect, ask advice from others without having to face embarrassment. But it is a risky place. As editors and webmaster, we don't know what we are doing - literally! Yes, I know the technical stuff, and yes we can get help for the pages from priests (to ensure we are orthodox), and we have the advantage of being young enough not to be scared of technology. When I say 'we don't know what we are doing', I'm thinking of a real act of faith. We post our material, but we don't know what results it will bring in or what seeds may be sown. We certainly don't dare to claim that we may have planted a vocation in someone's heart who happens to browse our pages in India or France - only God does that. At best, we cultivate and then leave the rest to Him. At harvest time, if anyone has discovered their vocation in life (to be a priest, a parent, a teacher etc) then God alone is glorified.

What keeps me going on this project? First, an unassailable sense that however much I protest that I would prefer a different vocation and that I find celibacy a difficult option, I cannot escape the calling to priesthood, nor the fact that Jesus trusts me, a most unworthy rascal, to continue His mission in the priesthood. Secondly, just above my computer, I have a sign which reads 'One sows... another reaps'. (John 4:37). We may never know the good we have done especially on the internet. It doesn't matter. Sow in faith and love and God and His Kingdom will reap. So every page I create, every link I pursue, each and every email I tackle, become my personal 'Credo'.

As we celebrate our birthday, could I ask you to pray for us, for all who visit our web site, that God will touch hearts and minds with a generous spirit?"

John
Webmaster
www.catholicpriest.me.uk
info@catholicpriest.me.uk
http://catholicpriest.50.forumer.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Slush and the Cross


We were anticipating a foot and a half of snow in our neck of the woods today. The excitement of the children as they watched for word of school closings was contagious. But, the bulk of the snow stayed to the west of us, and we got lots of snow mixed with rain-heavy slush! And the kids went to school. But me...I have a day off of work, a day to myself! And the snow still falls in fat flakes from the overcast sky. It's beautiful. And treacherous. And it revived my soul from the darkness of self-centered pity and brought me to think of others. And I am grateful.

I am grateful that my family was able to attend Mass for the Holy Day of the Immaculate Conception last night as the snow was driving down hard. A woman we didn't know walked into church and let out a sigh of relief that she had arrived safely. She asked Paul and I if we could give her a ride home after Mass, as she had taken the bus to church. We were glad to help and our simple act of service removed a splinter from the cross she bore.

I am grateful that I awoke early today, before husband and children, and went outside to shovel the slush from the walks and driveways, not only clearing those of my own house, but also those of the houses of my elderly neighbors on either side. My arms and back ache like His arms and back must have ached from the weight of the wood. The blisters and callouses that cover the palms of my hands from the heavy load I bore in each lift of the shovel reminds me of the wounds in His hands. The hour I spent shoveling was an hour of prayer and love for others, like the love He gave in taking our nails.

I am grateful that daily Mass was still held today. There I was in the empty church, alone. Right before Mass was to begin, I was joined by two others who braved the elements. Father Dave arrived and said Mass for the three of us. Regardless of the obstacles that the weather had caused, there were four people gathered at Mass to worship the Lord, just like the small group that gathered at the foot of the cross and would not leave Him in His hour of need regardless of the obstacles of hatred that surrounded them.

As I spend the remainder of my day in my warm house, baking cookies for our parish youth group, this too will remind me of His love. He feeds our hungry souls with His very body. I will bake to feed the hungry souls of our youth who yearn to know Him, even if they aren't aware of it yet. The love I serve them in the cookies will draw their hearts to His love, will bring them closer to Him.

Today I am grateful for slush. I am grateful to be of service to others. I am grateful to have a heart that loves. Without Him and the love he bore for all of us on His cross, none of this would be possible, my heart would remain cold and bitter. But it is through His love that weather related difficulties are transformed into joyous service.

Thank you Lord, for slush, and thank you for Your Love on the Cross.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!

“Rejoice O Virgin Mary; rejoice a thousand times!”
The Little Crown of The Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Louis de Montfort



Since my day of Consecration to Jesus through Mary last October, praying the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary has become a daily joy for me, and this line in particular always makes me smile. It’s repeated 12 times within the Crown, after each Hail Mary, so that is 12 times that a smile crosses my face each day (at least!). Considering all of the wonderful attributes of Our Blessed Lady and all of the wonders she works on our behalf, I think that a thousand times is far too few. Maybe the number should be changed to a billion times! Today, on the Feast of her Immaculate Conception, I too, rejoice at least a thousand times because I am so terribly blessed to have such a Pure and Holy Mother loving me and setting such a wonderful example of holiness for me.

Rejoice, O daughter of the Virgin Mary; rejoice a thousand times!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jesus and Heaven

"Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today." Luke 5:26

I'm always looking for the presence of Christ within others, especially within the clients I serve at the WIC Clinic. I'll never forget the day when He made it so easy to see Him, I didn't have to look hard at all. He showed His presence to me through the wonderful names of two darling children...

I pulled a chart from the box and glanced at the name of the client. It read "Jesus". Thinking the family was of Hispanic background, I pronounced the name as "Hey-zeus". The child's mother stood up and said "We're not Hispanic, his name is "Jesus"! Little Jesus was a sweet little two year old boy who was more interested in playing with my computer than with the basket of toys that I keep in my office to entertain the little ones. When Jesus and him mom left my office after our visit, I still had a smile on my face as I took the next chart.


This time, to my great surprise, the client was a precious six-month-old baby girl named "Heaven". I saw Jesus and Heaven all on the same day! I am unbelievably blessed and can't wait for the day when I will see the real Jesus and the real Heaven for all of eternity instead of lovely namesakes for a few short minutes.

This little sign of future joy was all it took to turn an ordinary day into a hope-filled day. Have you ever had a little sign like this to keep you going and move you forward in this exile here on earth?

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Window
























Holy Heavenly Spirit,

You watch me through the window of my soul.
You see all of my actions; you hear all of my prayers.
You feel all of my joys and sorrows.
Not one breath escapes my mouth without your awareness of it.

When the night grows dark,
You lift the curtain and cast a glow of light around me
so that I continue to be visible to You and to others
through the window of my soul.
You want me to be seen,
so that all will recognize your Spirit
that lives within me, and they too,
will be warmed and brightened
by the radiant love that comes from You.

I praise You, Holy Spirit,
for lifting the curtain
and revealing Yourself through me
in the window.

Amen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Birth Day


sitting lake side
feeling dead within
ripples grow and swell
fish rises, slips through surface
birthed by the waters into air

what pulls the fish
out of the depths of water
is unknown to me;
what draws me out
from the depths of darkness
is crystal clear

the warmth of friendship,
the presence of Christ
in the other,
a warm smile,
a gentle touch,
a listening ear,
a kind remark,
the hope of a love
that will last

suddenly alive again
everything fresh and bright
vibrant blue skies
stark trees
footsteps on rocks
clean, cold air

everything has new meaning
like the flying fish
I, too, am flying
birthed by the warmth of friendship
I slip through the surface of darkness
into the light of the Spirit
it is my birth day
I am born again

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winter Soul


As the winter trees bare their limbs

to receive the blanket of pure white snow,

So my cold winter soul bares itself

before the Lord God

to receive the warm covering of

His Pure and Holy Presence.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Manger Prayer
























Lord,

My heart is like the manger straw at Bethlehem. It’s cluttered, unkempt and dusty.

Yet, You chose to be born in my lowly heart just as You were born in a lowly manger.

You know that humble, unworthy surroundings are the perfect holding place for Your love to grow. What’s more, Your beautiful love transforms cluttered hearts and filthy mangers so that they become shining temples of glory.

This Advent, I will patiently wait for You to renew my cluttered heart with the birth of Your abiding presence and love. Amen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent: The Season for...Fighting?



Every year it’s the same story when Advent comes around…Advent, which means, “come”. The ideals that our family holds up, the things we most want to come into our lives are peace, harmony and joy. We always start with the best intentions. We create a homemade Advent wreath, cutting fresh sprigs of cedar from our trees in the backyard and fill a glass pie dish with the greens and four candles, violet and pink. We lovingly place the wreath at the center of our kitchen table. Each evening as part of our dinner prayer, the children take turns lighting a candle and reading a prayer about building the stable in our hearts for Jesus. Doesn’t that sound beautiful? No greedy dreams of Christmas wishes for toys and gadgets. No secular Christmas music blaring from our radio. No loading up on Christmas treats and Christmas decorations before the season actually arrives. Just peace, harmony and joy around our Advent kitchen table...read more...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Little White Martyrs

Mary complains that she doesn’t have any friends and nobody will play with her at recess. Some of the third grade girls tease in a sneering tone: “Why do you go to Mass, Mary?” Mary tries to sneer back: “Because I’m Cath-o-lic!” Walking away, all alone, she shakes her head and wonders why her classmates at a Catholic School would even ask her that question.


Thirteen-year-old Joe stretches out on his parents bed as mom sorts through mail at the end of the day. “I hate to tell you this Mom, but it happened again today. Please don’t feel bad, but almost every day, someone teases me because I go to daily Mass. If I don’t behave perfectly, if I say something mean, or get in trouble with the teacher, it always comes out… “Nice Christian witness, Joe! Is that what you learn at daily Mass? What would your holy Mom say? And by the way, did she used to be a nun?” Joe grimaces at the snide remarks and holds his temper in check until I come home and he tries to release it without hurting his sensitive mother.


Wondering if Jack was getting the same treatment, I questioned my quiet son. Unsure of the details, all he remembers is a question from his teacher at the beginning of the year… “Do you really go to Mass every day Jack? Who else is there, any other students?” Jack replied in the negative, “The only other people there all have grey hair.”


Gentle Jesus,

We love You and try to serve You in all we say and do. Our time with You each day at Mass is a treasure beyond cost, even the cost of painful remarks. Let the power of our daily reception of Your precious Body and Blood soothe the hurts of these humble believers who choose to begin our days in Your Holy Presence. Amen.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sabbath Sunday-Alabaster Jars

Enjoy a re-post from last May... In the spirit of Sunday, a day of rest, I am joining with Fr.Christian Mathis from Blessed is the Kingdom and re-posting a favorite story from the past instead of writing something new. Join in, put your feet up and keep the Sabbath holy...


“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. So he went to the Pharisee’s home and took his place at the table. There was a woman who was a notorious sinner in that city. When she learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s home, she took an alabaster jar of perfume and knelt at his feet behind him. She was crying and began to wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet over and over again, anointing them with costly perfume.” Luke 7:36-39

The perfume that this woman poured on Jesus’ feet cost her a year’s wages! This was extravagant love indeed! I dream of being this woman, of pouring out all of my love for Jesus and having him respond gratefully. This is by far my favorite gospel story. Fr. Don Hying, the rector at St. Francis Seminary, writes about this extravagant love and says, “When we break open the alabaster jar of our lives, the world is filled with the fragrance of Christ.”(New Heart New Spirit, April 2008) I can easily see that alabaster jar being broken open in the love of Mother Teresa, and all of those wonderful missionaries who follow after her. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open when a mother sits up all night, exhausted, and patiently caring for her sick child. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open when two friends sit together and quietly share stories of the love of God working in their lives. I can see the alabaster jar being broken open at every Mass when the priest holds the precious body of our Lord in his hands and everyone looks upon it with love.

Recently, I witnessed two very real instances of alabaster jars in my own life and I would like to share those stories. Not too long ago, I was having a very bad day; I was feeling unloved and unlovable, really drowning in self-pity and sorrow. I spent an afternoon at home crying and pouring out my misery to God. Then, my husband walked in the door at the end of his workday. He held me in his arms for the longest time and poured love from his heart to mine. Later, when I opened the bedroom door, I found two dozen red and pink roses on our bed. They were the most beautiful roses that I have ever seen in my life! Now, Paul is not the type of husband who routinely buys me flowers. In fact, in the eighteen years since we were married, I can only recall two other instances when he bought me flowers. But this day, those arms around me when I needed them the most and those beautiful, fragrant roses were an alabaster jar of extravagant love that nothing could ever match!

Another instance of an alabaster jar brings a smile to my face every time I recall it. While babysitting for my great-nephews and great-niece, Alex, Andrew and Caitlin, we spent a sunny morning outside, delighting in the beautiful warm spring weather. Caitlin, having just turned one year old, enjoyed exploring her world from her new-found skill of walking. She wobbled from tree, to flower, to slide, to toy car, to sandbox with a smile of pure joy on her face. I’m sure our time outside completely wore her out! I was trying to delay her naptime to coincide with Andrew’s, so I know she was very tired. My nephew, David, came home for lunch, and the minute that Caitlin saw him, she threw her little, tired body down at his feet and wrapped her arms around his ankles as if to say, this is what I have been waiting for! Here is my beloved father who brings me happiness with his very presence! Watching the love of that moment, I was no longer looking at Caitlin and David, but before my eyes, I was witnessing Mary and Jesus. As David bent down to pick up Caitlin and hold her in his arms, her head naturally rested near his heart as if to say, this is all I ever need, and thank you for loving me.

Everywhere I look, I will be seeing alabaster jars breaking open for the rest of my life. The world smells delicious with the rich perfume of love hanging heavy in the air. I could never grow my hair long enough to dry all of the ointment mingling with the tears. And it doesn’t matter how many people may react with scorn and disdain and criticize the extravagance. Those alabaster jars are going to keep on breaking, the fragrance is going to continue to spread, because God’s love cannot and will not be held back. Once the fragrance of Christ is in the air, our senses are awakened and we cannot help but breathe it in and share it with others.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Story of Mr. Blart/Guest Post

As a homework assignment, my 13-year-old son Joe was to write a children's story with a moral. I just loved what he came up with so much, that I thought I would share it on the blog, hoping that it would bring smiles to many faces. Enjoy!

The Story of Mr. Blart
By: Joe Bender



Mr. Blart was not very smart.
Instead of a car he drove a grocery store cart.
“Today,” Mr. Blart did start.
“Today I will buy a car at Wal-Mart!”
When he got there he met Mrs. Dart,
a lady who worked right there at Wal-Mart.
What she said tore Blart right apart.
“We don’t sell real cars, cross my heart.”

That left poor Blart feeling real glum,
“A car at Wal-Mart, boy am I dumb!”
To cheer himself up he took out some gum.
It was his favorite and it made him say “YUM!”
But that still left him sad and his heart still numb.
Then poor Mr. Blart he started to hum
and on a guitar he started to strum.
Though nothing he did could make him not glum,
because after forty-three years he still lived with his mum.

“That’s it!” shouted Mr. Blart with might.
“I’ll change my life and I’ll put up a fight!”
Then Mr. Blart felt he reached a new height.
He felt like he was flying just like a kite.
He always wanted to feel so light.
He had never felt so cool so tight!
As he skipped home into the night
a smile came across his face full of delight!

He spread many books across the table.
He’d study all night if he were able.
One book had a very interesting label.
The title for it was Anne of Green Gable.
He read the book ‘til he didn’t feel stable.
Then he clicked the remote and fell asleep watching cable.

He had a dream about when he was a lad.
He got into trouble and acted real bad.
When the teacher yelled at him he got so mad
that he quit school and the whole life he had.
Waking up he felt very sad,
but only just a tad.
He wished that he still had his dad,
Though he knew he got shot by a Russian named, Vlad.
“I’ll do it!” Blart said “I’ll do it for dad!
I’ll do it for the dad I never had!”

And for him Mr. Blart went out on a limb.
He went to his old teacher, Mrs. Kim.
Mrs. Kim knew his chances were dim
but out of pity decided to help him.
Her husband, Tim,
bought some books on a whim.
With help from Mrs. Kim and Tim
he felt much smarter and they were so proud of him.

Then after that Mr. Blart was just fine.
He had an IQ of 2009.
He was so smart he could create things with some sticks and some twine.
He made a house, a garage, and a car with an engine 409.
He had lots of women all waiting in line
for Blart to say to one “You are mine!”

And so Mr. Blart turned his life upside-down.
He now wears a smile instead of a frown.
So the morale is if life’s got you down
and you’re always the loser in town,
work hard and you too, can turn your life around.

The End.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

No Crucifix?
























“The Vatican denounced a ruling by the European court of human rights that said the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools violates religious and education freedoms.” By Alessandra Rizzo, Associated Press Writer

Does this break your heart like it breaks mine? How does the crucifix which freed me from my sin, violate religious and educational freedom?

Here in America, the crucifix and prayer in public schools has long been done away with and is a tremendous loss to people of all faith backgrounds. When my children study history and/or world cultures in school, they learn about all faiths, not only Christian but Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu as well. Having knowledge of all faiths can only help to increase our understanding of and love for one another. Shutting the door on a faith and its religious symbols only serves to increase fear, misunderstanding and hatred.

When my children were in a public grade school I was always saddened when I would take them to our parish classrooms for religious studies, for it was in those rooms where I would see the beautiful crucifix and statue of our Blessed Mother. It hurt to realize that my children were denied the comfort of the precious symbols of our faith in the school that they attended each day.

What I resolved to do was to make sure my children were well educated in their faith, not simply by sending them to Christian Formation classes at our parish, but mainly by teaching them the tenets of our Catholic traditions at home and encouraging them to live their faith each day no matter where they happened to be. If the Christian symbol of the Crucifix could not be displayed in their public school classrooms, then the symbol of the Resurrected Christ would be carried in their hearts each day and shared with a non-believing world through their daily words and actions. Like the old hymn states: “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

Each day when I would walk my children to public school, I would trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads before they walked into the school as a physical reminder to them that Christ lives in them and they are to show His love to others. Then they would each trace the cross on my forehead as well so that I would also carry Christ with me no matter where I went. Today, my children who attend Catholic school, begin their day with Holy Mass and the reception of the Eucharist so that Jesus is truly alive in their hearts and can readily be shared with others through their actions each day.

I realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg, for beyond living our faith as individuals and sharing our personal love of Christ with others, we can display our faith in so many ways. Why not consider wearing a crucifix necklace every day as an outward sign of your faith? Crucifix bumper stickers for the car and statues in our yards could be a great way to display our faith. My young friend John, in England, who is editor of "A Vocation to Be a Priest" has purchased small crucifixes to leave on buses and trains. If the European government is going to rule against the crucifix in schools, he plans to bring the crucifix with him wherever he goes so that the whole world will know that wherever we are, Christ is there too. With his loving words, actions and personal witness, John plans to keep the crucifix visible not only in the schools, but in every public place in Europe.

For more on this topic, I encourage you to visit Gabriella’s Blog. You may also feel moved to email the Committee of Ministers to protest their verdict at: cm@coe.int. This is a worldwide concern, not simply a European concern. Please add your voice and your prayers to address this disgraceful situation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It Will All Be Worth It

If it takes my whole life
I won't break, I won't bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
'Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all burned out
You'll still be burning so bright

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind

“The Answer”
Sarah McLachlan



My mom and her sister Marge were women of deep faith. Their entire lives were lived in the love of the Lord. My mom died ten years ago. It was a brain tumor that resulted in her leaving this earth for eternity with the Lord at the age of 73. Eight years later my aunt Marge passed away at the age of 87.

At the funeral wake for Marge, her daughter, my cousin Mary, a beautiful and faith filled woman who seemed to have everything going for her, shared a story with me about my mom. It seems that Mary had been suffering from depression at the time of my mom’s death. Life for her was very bleak. Shortly after my mom had died, Mary had a dream about her. In Mary's dream, my mom came to her and said “Mary, it’s all worth it.” That dream gave my cousin so much peace, believing that my mom was in heaven and was encouraging Mary by letting her know that all of those earthly trials will be replaced with the joys of heaven. Of course, my sisters and I were a bit jealous of Mary because she had the dream about my mom and we didn’t, but maybe Mary needed it more at that time.

In the few months before my Aunt Marge died I myself had two experiences of prayer that have left me pondering the power of prayer and the ability we have to feel the needs of others. I was at daily Mass. During the consecration when the priest prays for those who have died, our pastor, Fr. Dave, has the habit of pausing to give everyone time to silently pray for those departed souls that we hold deeply in our hearts. I always use this time to pray for my parents and anyone I know who has died recently, by giving their names to the Lord. Suddenly, out of the blue, Marge's name came to my mind. I had not been thinking of her and had not seen her in such a long time. I wondered, "why now?" Had she died and I hadn't heard about it yet? Shortly after I “heard” her name at Mass, I was told that she was sick and in the hospital. I wondered if it wasn’t Marge’s angel who had placed her name in my mind and my heart, knowing that she was in need of prayer. A few months later this happened yet again, Marge's name coming to my mind during the consecration at Mass. It was later that I learned she had been moved to a hospice right around the time when I had "heard" her name at Mass.

By the time she finally did die, I was the one suffering through a deep depression like my cousin Mary. So, although I never had a dream about my aunt Marge or my mom comforting me from heaven, my cousin Mary’s words to me at Marge’s funeral wake about her own dream gave me comfort. God must have meant for her to share her experience with me at this particular time because he knew I needed it more at that moment than I did at the time of my own mother’s death.

Since that time two years ago, my bouts of depression come and go with a frequency which leaves me spinning, but those words that Mary heard in her dream, “it’s all worth it”, help me to cope when I know that whatever suffering I undergo here on earth will draw me to eternal joys if I can only remember to offer it up to God for the good of others both living and deceased.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This, too




















I’m afraid that I will never know what it is like

to be whole and peaceful this side of heaven.

Whenever fresh pain enters my heart,

the remnant of a voice from the past comes back to haunt me,

“It’s your Good Friday, Anne, get on the cross."


I cry softly in the early morning hours of darkness,

desperately hoping God will hear me,

and release me from this pain,

but silence is the only reply.


Lonely, empty, long-lasting silence.


And when the help does finally come,

in the form of friends and family who really do care,

and put their arms around me and tell me that they love me,

I find that their love hurts, too.

I don’t believe that I deserve it.

Unworthiness and low self-esteem are my constant companions.


With a sigh, I ask God,

“This too, Lord? Do you want me to accept this pain too?

Do you want to take all of what I am, all of what I am not and all that I will never be?”


I’ve tasted resurrection; I’ve had joy after the sorrow of the past.

Now, I am here on the other side of that hill again,

standing before the cross that is waiting for me once more.

It beckons to me with the knowledge

that Jesus died because He loves me

and if I truly love Him in return,

I must also die to myself.


Like a child, I greedily beg to hold on to the joy for a little while longer.

I bite my lip to hold back the tears.

The blood dries hard on my lip like the happiness that is shriveling in my heart.

Lip biting is useless; the tears come anyway.

Never-ending tears.


I walk the familiar pavement that leads to my cross,

face to the ground hoping my tears will go unnoticed.

Cold November wind stings my damp face.

I hear the Spirit’s reply;

"This too, Anne. I want all of you.”


I bravely surrender my desires and reach out for my cross.

“This too, Lord. I give you my all.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Praise for the Reality of God!

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

















I've had a couple of rough weeks recently. Nothing major at all, just lots of little things that nagged at me and bothered me. I wrote down all of the things that were bothering me, thinking I would counter each negative event with a positive thing. I never got around to doing that. Once I had my list of negativity, I was ashamed that I would even bother to write down the things that upset me as if I needed to hold onto them somehow, nurture them, let them grow and fester inside my heart.

I was blessed to spend a little bit of time with a friend this week and when I told him about my negativity list he said "Anne, that's not real. All of those things will be gone tomorrow, they don't last. All that is real is God. He is the only One who will last forever." WOW! That made so much sense to me, I went home and tore up my list. I am now determined to focus on the beautiful reality of God and all of the real ways that he shows his presence to me.

Here is my list of praise for the week. It is real because they are all gifts from God and I choose to remember them all and praise God for them.

1) For the reality of Jesus in the Eucharist.









2) For yellow mums growing in the garden in the middle of November after everything else has died.

3) For walking under a beautiful pink sunset, listening to the song of a friend.







4) For the new Archbishop of Milwaukee-Archbishop Jerome Listecki! Hooray! And a huge Praise be to God!!!







5) For the gift of old friends from the original St. Matthias Mom's Group and the chance to reconnect-especially for wonderful Sr. Moira who is visiting from Australia. How I've missed her these past 13 years!










Dear One and Only Real Father in Heaven, thank you for the reality of your love and goodness in my life. Thank you for the reality of my husband, my children and my friends. Thank you for the reality of your love in my heart. Thank you for the reality of the beauty found in nature. Thank you for being Real. Amen.


Thank you also, to Jennifer at My Chocolate Heart for hosting this weekly Praise MEME, and for her recent story about The Velveteen Rabbit becoming real (The Process of Holiness: Sometimes it Hurts to Let Yourself Be Loved for Real)published in Catholic Online.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Favorite Quotes/Bishop Fulton Sheen


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



Fulton Sheen

"The World's First Love"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn

"Day pours out the word to day." Psalm 19

Tota pulchra es, Maria
et macula originalis non est in te.
Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol.
Tota pulchra es, Maria,
et macula originalis non est in te.
Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tota pulchra es, Maria.

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in you.
Your clothing is white as snow, and your face is like the sun.
You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain [of sin] is not in
you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you give honour to our people.
You are all beautiful, Mary.


Last week I met with my sisters for our monthly rosary. My sister Cathy who lovingly cared for my parents before they died, brought along a box of post cards that my parents had collected on their world travels. I found this postcard in the box and I immediately fell in love with this beautiful picture, the lovely prayer and the gorgeous name-Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn. This image of Mary is also known as Our Lady of Ostra Brama and/or Our Lady of Mercy. It originated in Lithuania in the 1300's and was painted by an unknown artist. The gold and silver were added to the portrait later. Her feast is celebrated between November 10th and November 16th. Happy feast of Our Lady of The Gate of Dawn!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Kings Kids

My sister Debby and her friend Jane have been working on a children's book called "The King's Kids". Debby has been posting the pages from her book on her blog, Heavenly Humor.

Her latest posting features a picture of my son Jack when he was three years old. He was having a bad day and sat at the table spunking. Usually, when my kids are having a bad day, I wouldn't say they look "cute", but in Jack's case, that word perfectly described his disposition.

The shadow couple fighting in the background are not Paul and I. We never fight! ;)

Why don't you pay a visit to Debby's blog and if you scroll back you will find some of the other pages from her book as well.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Absence of God

“You see all my light and You love my dark…and You’re still here.” Alanis Morrisette

It was several years ago on Holy Thursday. I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and it hit me hard. My words can't adequately describe the sudden, completely empty, cold and drained feeling that washed over my soul like the suds on the dishes in my hands. God had left me. I don’t know how it is that I knew this was the cause of my sudden emptiness, but there was no doubt in my mind that the absence of God had overcome me.

I had walked in the light of His love my entire life and had really taken it for granted that His love would always be there. I never gave any thought to the fact that the awareness of His presence was a gift. There were many times in my life when I put His love on a shelf and completely disregarded it as unimportant. What a fool I was!

So anyway, there I was at the sink, feeling absolutely horrible. Tears began to fall and my children, upset to see their mother crying, asked what was wrong. I couldn’t answer because I really didn’t understand what was happening to me and hadn’t a clue about how to explain it to my little ones.

We went to Holy Thursday Mass, and as I sat in church and looked around at all of the other people present, I thought, “How can God love all of these people but not love me?” I immediately scolded myself for my prideful thought, but it wasn’t pride really, it was something worse than pride. It was despair.

The associate Pastor who loved to include pop music lyrics in his homilies quoted an Alanis Morrisette song at this Mass-

Everything:

“You see everything,
you see every part
you see all my light
and you love my dark

You dig everything of which
I’m ashamed
There’s not anything to which
You can’t relate
And you’re still here.”


He explained that this is exactly how God is, loving us and never leaving us no matter what. As happens from time to time, I felt that these words that Father quoted, these song lyrics, were spoken directly to my heart. The tears I was trying so hard to control, began to spill once more. I knew he was right, that God is always with me, so that made my present condition even harder to bear. The tears continued after my family and I returned home. I cried while kneeling bed-side with my children for their evening prayers and once again they began to question my tears and attempt to comfort me. How could I explain the unexplainable? I had told them all their lives that God loves them and will never leave them. How could I tell them that He had left me?

By the next morning, I was feeling better, not quite so desolate, and gradually I began to feel the presence of God in my life once again. I know that God uses all things for good for those who love Him and this short-lived experience of darkness was enough to change my life significantly. Since that night, I began to attend daily Mass even though, at first, I questioned God all the way there and all the way home. “Why do you want me there? Right now I'd rather be anywhere but church!” I told Him. Yet everyday I'd get up, get dressed and drive to church regardless of whether or not I felt like being there. Sometimes I would cry all the way to Mass, cry the entire time I was there, and then cry all the way home. I wondered if there would ever be an end to my tears. Still, something made me go day after day. It’s as if God was drawing me through the pain to a deeper love for Him, one that didn’t rely on consolations and joy, but instead, thrived even in the nothingness and the pain.

That experience of the absence of God also brought me to spiritual direction in a desire to try to understand God and how he works in my life. It is such a relief to know that each month I can sit and talk one on one with someone who has also been in that dark place and has found a way through it to the knowledge that we remain forever in God's presence whether it is felt or not. It is a huge help to know that I am not alone on my journey to holiness, that others have been where I am, and that I will always continue to grow in my faith.

I know I’ve got a long way to go spiritually, but daily Mass, spiritual direction and spiritual reading have led me to understand that the words of that priest so long ago are very true: even when I can’t feel God, He is always there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Angel of Death














While sitting on the rock by the beach,
feeling the cold November air chill
me to the bones,
I noticed The Angel of Death
pass over in a low,
gray, cirrus cloud.

Ripples immediately moved across the lake,
and the crow was silenced.

I waited for the Angel
to take my soul
and leave my limp, lifeless body
on the rock.
But, he continued on his way
and left me in my silent
peaceful reverie of Autumn.

(see Carry on Tuesday prompt
"In the arms of an angel"
for even more angels!)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Passage






















Oh life, I cling to you!
Though your days grow long
and the shadows linger
I hate to say good-bye.

I want to hold your hand and
feel the wrinkles in your skin.
I want to gaze into your
clouded eyes
and recall the spark
that once existed there.

My heart aches
for the feeling of love
that once flourished
inside of me
because of you.
My body aches
for the feeling of
your once strong arms
that held me so tenderly.

I am left
empty
lonely
without you.

May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace. Amen.

Litany of Saints

My friend Judy and I go way back, 23 years to be exact. Our lives are so busy that we rarely get to see each other anymore. Judy is much better than I am at maintaining contact. She calls or emails to make arrangements to get together. After much scrambling back and forth with our filled-to-the-brim calendars, we finally settle on a date. We are usually only able to match our calendars for one night out each year. In spite of the infrequency of our time together, when we do reunite, it is like we just saw each other yesterday. I love Judy. I always have and I always will.

She really is a much better friend to me than I am to her. It's Judy who always comes to my house to pick me up when we go out for dinner and drinks. As I get ready to go out, my kids all ask "Who's Judy, again? Which one of your friends is she?" As if I have so many friends they just can't keep track of them all!

So, when Judy arrives, I round up the family from their activities and re-introduce them to her. As soon as they see her, instant recognition lights up their adorable faces! "Oh, Judy!" they say, "how could we ever forget you!" Judy laughs and says picking me up for our annual night out is like taking someone on their first date. Before we can leave, she has to meet the whole family to make sure they approve!

It makes me think of some of my other friends who I don't make contact with very often, my friends the saints. Sure, I have my favorites like St. Gianna Molla, St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane de Chantal, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Joseph. It's easy for me to have frequent prayerful conversations with these saints that I identify with so easily. But what about those saints that I hardly know or easily forget about? How can I keep in touch with the many, many holy souls in heaven that I've contacted on occasion, but fail to remember on a daily basis? That's where the litany of saints comes in. How I love the Feast of All Saints Day when we try to remember them all. It's like my annual night out with Judy, a chance to reconnect with some old friends.

Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to run through that list of names, maybe learn about someone we didn't know, possibly make a new heavenly friend. I love the Litany of Saints and the chance to roll my tongue across some of their exotic sounding names and ponder how it is that they served the Lord so as to earn the title of Saint. I pray that those Godly examples of Sainthood, will ponder my name as well, and keep me in their own prayers, so that one day, my name will be sung out with theirs in that glorious Litany of Saints.


Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, Holy Virgin of virgins, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, All you holy Angels and Archangels, All you holy orders of blessed Spirits, St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, All you holy Patriarchs and Prophets, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Andrew, St. James, St. John, St. Thomas, St. James, St. Philip, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon, St. Thaddeus, St. Matthias, St. Barnabas, St. Luke, St. Mark, All you holy Apostles and Evangelists, All you holy Disciples of the Lord, All you holy Innocents, St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, St. Vincent, Sts. Fabian and Sebastian, Sts. John and Paul, Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Sts. Gervase and Protase, All you holy Martyrs, St. Sylvester, St. Gregory, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Martin, St. Nicholas, All you holy Bishops and Confessors, All you holy Doctors, St. Anthony, St. Benedict, St. Bernard, St. Dominic, St. Francis, All you holy Priests and Levites, All you holy Monks and Hermits, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Agatha, St. Lucy, St. Agnes, St. Cecilia, St. Catherine, St. Anastasia, All you holy Virgins and Widows, All you Holy Men and Women, Saints of God, make intercession for us.

(originally posted 6/09)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Where is Father?

We had no priest for morning Mass yesterday. It's normal for Fr. Dave to fly in at the last minute, but by ten after seven, it was clear that he would not be coming. The silence in the church was heavy, not sweet, perhaps because there was an underlying sense of worry. Was he sick? Hurt? Hasn't the news been full of stories of priests who didn't show up for Mass only to be found (dead) afterward? I can't believe I actually let that ugly thought out of my head and onto this computer! Never have I prayed for Fr. Dave so much as I did on that Friday morning in church! My prayers were answered in the sweetest way, as Fr. Dave was not dead, he simply failed the check the Mass schedule upon his return from retreat. Thankfully, Sr. Doris was there to lead us all in a prayer service.

Communion Service

Discomfort filled my soul
as I stood at the Ambo,
Lectionary in front of me,
page turned to the Gospel.

"Read it," she had said.

"How can I read these words,
that belong to the priest?"
I wondered.

I scanned the faces in the pews,
look of hunger for God's word
lay heavily upon each.

Two smiling little faces in the front pew
gleamed with pride for their mother.

"They shouldn't be smiling," I thought.

I swallowed my worry
and proclaimed His words.

At the end of the communion service
I prayed that we would never be without
a priest again.

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the field." Lk 10:2

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Last Leaf

























What inner pain causes the last leaf of autumn to cling so tightly to the branch of the tree? What deep-seated fear impels it to hold on so desperately?

Is it worried that the winds will carry it far away from the security of the tree that it has known and loved throughout the seasons of the past?

Or perhaps it is the decay of death that repels it so.

Whatever the reason for the anguish of the leaf that causes it to be so very needful, it can't possibly know that the bitterness of a cold winter is just around the corner, or that the sturdy condition of the branch to which it helplessly lingers, is no match for the weight of the ice and snow that is sure to come.

Release yourself to the sweet surrender of God's love, lonely leaf. Let go in trust. Let your horizons expand like those of the sun rising above the lake.