Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Knees of Christ

Look! Look closely at His knees. Do you remember falling off your bike as a child? Do you remember how much those scrapes hurt? Do you remember the sting you felt when your mother gently washed your knees before bandaging them? Do you remember your mother quietly shushing you and telling you that it would be ok, that the pain would be over soon?

Jesus didn't get to feel that gentle sting or hear those tender words; he only got to feel the pain of gravel and dirt ground further into them as He fell under the weight of that heavy cross again and again. And why was that cross so heavy? It was heavy because we sinned. I sinned. I put that unbearably heavy load on His shoulders; I weighed him down with my foolish thoughts and behavior. I caused His pain, His excruciating pain. But now, I can help to ease that pain. I can confess my sins and do my best to avoid all future sin. I can try to live my life in love and service for others. I can take His pain away. I can pray along with St. Alphonsus of Liguori:

My Jesus, laden with sorrows, I weep for the sins which I have committed against You. I love You Jesus, my Love, with all my heart.I am sorry that I have offended You. Never allow me to offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will. Amen.

Favorite Quotes/Rabia

"God asked me to show Him where it hurts, and every cell in my body burst into tears before His tender eyes." Rabia

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Wonders never cease! My oldest son has started his own blog! It looks as if it is going to be very interesting! I can't wait to watch it evolve. Check it out! You can find the link in my blogroll-"Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Washed in the Blood of Christ

Greetings from the WIC Clinic...

“How are you?” I asked.
“I'm washed in the blood of Christ.” She replied.

Dear God, give me the courage to witness to your sacrifice of love in all circumstances. Amen.

“How are you?” I asked.
“I'm blessed.” She answered.

Dear God, give me the grace to show my gratitude for your many gifts at all times. Amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Memories of Dad

I was so blessed to come from a large family (eight brothers and sisters) and parents who loved me and cared for me. Really, my childhood was quite good and normal except for one thing. My Dad was a diabetic and his diabetes was poorly controlled. I have so many memories of fear filled moments because of Dad’s diabetes. I remember huddling on the couch with my sisters as the paramedics tended to my dad in the next room, and peeking out the window to see all the neighborhood kids standing outside gawking at the ambulance outside our house. I remember lots of visits to Dad in the hospital and leaving so sad because he was in a diabetic coma and didn’t even know I was there.

I remember coming home from school for lunch while in the third grade and finding Dad passed out on the floor in diabetic shock. I felt panic inside because I was alone and didn’t know what to do. I remembered that Mom usually gave him orange juice to help raise his blood sugar. I couldn’t find any orange juice in the house, so I cut an orange in half and was trying to squeeze the juice into his mouth when my sister Cathy came home from college. She was so calm, like she had been through this hundreds of times before. She said “Annie, it’s too late for that, he’s beyond shock.” She called the ambulance and my mom at work. There was nothing left for me to do, but go back to school for the afternoon. I remember how strange and lonely it felt to try to continue to have a normal day at school when my life felt anything but normal. School was the last place in the world that I wanted to be that day. My mind and heart were miles away.

I learned to avoid Dad whenever there was any sign of his blood sugar dropping. I would leave the house and escape to my friend, Sylvia’s house, or go for a walk in the cemetery across the street, or retreat to my bedroom, just to avoid the trauma of watching him resist any care that Mom would try to give him. Under the influence of low blood sugar, Dad would become a different person. As Mom would frantically try to feed him candy or orange juice, he would push her away and yell at her, saying that he didn’t need anything and she should leave him alone, yet at the same time, he would be taking the food she was persistently, lovingly offer him. We all believed that Mom was a saint for all she had to cope with. We all believed that it was Mom who was keeping Dad alive.

That shadow of his imminent death hung over my head all the years I was growing up. I was always told that he only had a few years to live, that his out-of-control diabetes was killing him. My mind was frequently filled with sad imaginings of hospital scenes and funerals. Although the hospital scenes were frequent, the funeral, thankfully, was years away.

Those fear filled and painful memories followed me into adulthood when I helped to care for Dad in his old age. It didn’t matter that I lived with his diabetes my whole life, I still felt like I was incompetent and incapable of really taking care of him. After Mom died, my children and I would take him on his weekly grocery shopping trip, and that worry was always on my mind “what will I do if he passes out?” I’ll never forget the day when that fear became very real.

My four sons were very small, in fact, Jack was still a baby. Dad was taking a longer time than usual to finish his shopping. The boys and I sat on the counter at Aldi eating apples and reading books, while we waited for him to finish his chore that gave him some much needed independence. The clerk in the store had come to know us very well. We were the family that always lingered long after our shopping was done to wait for Dad.

On this particular day, I began to suspect that something wasn’t right because the wait seemed longer than usual. I could see Dad walking up and down the same aisle, looking lost. I went to see if I could help him find something, and I knew by the look in his eyes that we had to leave right away. He had been popping glucose pills in his mouth, but they weren’t helping. I got him to the checkout and as luck would have it, the woman behind me was a doctor. She ran to the back of the store for orange juice. Another woman came running with candy bars. All I could think was pack up these groceries and get out of here! If I had to call an ambulance, I wanted it to be from his house and not the grocery store where we wouldn’t be afforded any privacy.

The boys had grown restless and didn’t understand what was going on. My panic level reached an all time high as one of the boys, cranky and overtired, decided to lie on the ground in the parking lot and throw a temper tantrum. I didn’t have time or patience to waste feeling sorry for myself about the unfairness of life, of how I was too young to be grieving the loss of my mother and still have to find the strength to carry on in a situation like this. All I could do was react. So, while I was carrying Jack in the baby carrier and holding Dad with my other arm, I used the only thing I had left, my mouth, to yell “Get up! We have to go now! This is not a time to fall apart!” I should have been yelling those same words to myself because that is exactly how I felt, like I was falling apart!

I hurried Dad and Jack to the van, and scrambled back to scoop up my son who still lay there overwhelmed and crying. Anger rushed through me as I grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the van. There was a woman who witnessed this scene in the parking lot, but had missed the one inside the store. She came running to me with a bible tract, thinking that I was some evil mother who needed advice on how to lovingly care for my children. That was the last straw and I did fall apart. Tears fell from my eyes as I drove back to dad’s house. And suddenly, I felt that God was with us. He must have felt my frustration and been moved by my tears, and he brought a sense of peace to me. By the time we got back to Dad’s house, he was fine, the glucose finally kicked in, the overtired children were sleeping and my tears had dried up. But now, I was completely exhausted. I was very thankful that the boys and I could return to our home, instead of accompanying Dad to the hospital, and we could spend the afternoon resting in God’s love.

Even though there were many challenges living with a diabetic father, I am grateful for the love he gave me and the growth that the challenges of living with a health impaired parent produced in me. We were all amazed that he continued to live for eight years after Mom died. God blessed him with 83 years on this earth filled with hard work, prayer and quiet witness to the presence and strength of God. Now, I am confident that God is holding him close in heaven and thanking him for his loving service as spouse to a warm and loving wife, father to nine children, master gardener and antique dealer and most of all, for loving service as a child of God.

Happy Father's Day to all Dads and those who love them!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Oh God, I want a heart like Mary's.

~Immaculate and pure~
~Pierced by love yet strong~
~Always open to Your will~
pondering all things silently,
especially the mysteries
of Your Son's life~
~Burning with love for all people~

Oh God, I want a heart like Mary's
united to Your own. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us, sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Bride of Christ

In the endless eternity
Before my body existed
My soul flourished
As a nun veiled
In a black habit
With only my face
Exposed to the world.

I am still
The Bride of Christ.
Our union is consummated
Each time I attend Holy Mass.
I consume Christ
Christ consumes me.

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

“Learn of me,” He said, “because I am meek and humble of heart.” These two are the master attributes of the Sacred Heart. But the root of all its other virtues, furnishing nourishment even to meekness itself, is humility. If the Heart of Jesus had not been humble, it could not have been made meek.

Sermons by Fr. John Kelly

My Jesus, when I am tempted to pride and vanity, as I often am, draw me into your Most Sacred Heart and hold me close. Fill me with the virtue of humility so that I may become more like you. Let me use this virtue to comfort others who suffer from the humiliations of life. Help me to always remember that when I am meek and humble, I become a reflection of your gentle love to others. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me. Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Sweetie in the Middle

Today is Joe’s 13th birthday. I used to make homemade cards for the kids and have fell out of the practice recently. Those cards meant so much to Joe; I think they were his favorite part of his birthday celebrations. To make up for the store-bought card, I promised Joe that I would write a birthday blog about him.

A heart full of love and kindness is how I would describe Joe. He is always looking out for others, especially those that he sees as small and defenseless, like his younger brother and sister. He reaches out to them frequently to teach them, play with them and love them. He does the same for fellow students, especially if he sees someone who seems to be in need of a little extra kindness. Maybe this is because as a middle child, he does have a higher than average sense of fairness, and he wants to make sure that everyone whose life he touches, feels that life is fair to them as well.

Joe is very easy to get along with and makes friends easily. He tries very hard to please and make everyone happy. But, back to that fairness issue again, if he feels that he is treated badly, he is quick to blow up in anger. I guess I could say that Joe wears his heart on his sleeve. His emotions always show and the whole world knows when he is feeling happy, sad or angry.

Joe is super smart. He grasps difficult concepts quite easily and is even able to help his older brothers with their homework. He rarely asks for help, and is quite diligent about completing his work to the best of his ability. He loves to read, and we’ll often find him curled up in a chair, (sometimes sitting upside down!) with a good book. His favorite types of books to read are usually sports related.

One of Joe’s best talents is his ability to write great stories. He is extremely creative and has a wonderful way with words. He is currently working on an adventure story called “Super Priest and Captain Weirdy” which I’m sure will turn out to be very entertaining. Joe is also gifted with a beautiful singing voice. He is a member of the Choristers of St. Francis Xavier and performs at the Cathedral. He has performed quite a few solos with this group and has always received many compliments. Joe is also a very good basketball player. His dream would be to become a professional basketball player, but his leadership skills would also be a plus if he would end up becoming a coach. Joe also has a gift for debating. He can argue a point until his opponent (usually mom or dad!) is exhausted and gives in. We tell Joe we think he would make a great lawyer some day.

One of my favorite nicknames for Joe is sweetie. This goes back to the time when he was a toddler and he played house with his brothers. He was always the “sweetie” baby and I love to remember him like this because he is incredibly sweet. One of his favorite games that he likes to play with me is called “you’re funny”. He will tell me that I’m funny; to which I always automatically reply, “You’re funny!” He always cracks up when I tell him this, so I guess it’s true that he really is funny.

When I asked Joe to think of a description for himself using an element of nature, he chose a cloud. He said that like a cloud, he would like to relax and float by and watch the world pass in peace, yet like a cloud, he can also be dark and stormy at times. I would say that Joe is a very typical middle child, with an above average intelligence and capacity for love. He is honest and fair and kind and we hope he always stays this way.

Beach Moon

As soon as we came to the top of the hill, our breath was drawn from our mouths in one united gasp. The full moon shining down on the lake was absolutely glorious! We had come to the beach to lie in the sand and pray under the stars, but the glistening lake under the beach moon reflected the fullness of God’s love and easily overshadowed any stars that might have shown past the moon’s light.

How could our hearts not sing for joy to a God who loves us so much that he just had to share this part of his beautiful world with us? And it’s strange how we all respond so differently to God’s love. I longed to sit in silence with an open heart to receive God’s love, but Paul wanted to walk in his presence along the shoreline to take in as much of God’s beauty as he possibly could. And our children had an altogether different idea of prayer. Their prayer burst forth from their overflowing hearts, and they could not resist shouting, laughing and playing in the sand and water.

Each of us, in our own way, offered our prayers of thanksgiving to God for the gift of this beautiful night under the full beach moon. Later, as we drifted off to sleep, we held that memory of the beach moon in our hearts and knew that God continued to smile at us from beyond the moon, the stars and the lake, and from within our very selves, just as He always has and always will.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pro-life Witness

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you may know that I am very timid about speaking about my faith and values, mainly because I fear confrontation. So unless I know someone shares my values, my mouth stays shut (I know that is hard to believe for those of you who know what a chatter-box I am!)

Today, however, I spoke up loud and clear about my pro-life values, to a complete stranger, and guess what? There was no confrontation-only acceptance! Praise God!

In my office at work, I have a large display of pictures of my family. Most of the clients who visit my office end up commenting on those pictures. They ask normal questions like "Are those all your kids?" or they compliment me on my daughter and ask if she's a model. People can be so nice, can't they?

I also have one picture of Saint Gianna Molla in the mix. Today, a client asked me about that picture. She asked if it was a picture of my mom. I immediately felt my face burn with embarrassment. What would she think of me, I wondered, when I told her about St. Gianna's fabulous story? Would she think I was strange to have a picture of a saint with my family photos? Would she ask to see a different nutritionist the next time they came, thinking that I was a bit crazy? Would she become angry because I dared to share my religious views in a secular environment? Would she confront me and say that she favored abortion? Would she confess that she had experienced the agony of abortion herself?

I took a deep breath, whispered a quick prayer in my heart for courage (Oh Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise) and I explained to her and her husband that it was a picture of one of my favorite saints, and I went on to tell them the beautiful story of St. Gianna. I told them that St. Gianna was a doctor who struggled with a difficult pregnancy in which abortion was advised. I spoke about her strength in refusing to end the life of her growing baby, and of how she died after giving birth to her daughter. I shared the amazing story of how her husband and children were in Rome to witness her canonization. I told them that the reason I have the picture on my desk is because it reminds me of the great honor and privilege I have in serving so many families with beautiful babies. Her picture reminds me to value those clients and those babies because all life is precious.

When I finished speaking, the client and her husband smiled at me and thanked me for sharing the story with them. They agreed that it is a wonderful story. As they left my office, I no longer felt embarrassed, but instead, I was very proud that I was able to witness to the pro-life cause and to my faith. I thanked God for giving me this opportunity in a pleasant setting with pleasant results. I know that in the future, being a witness for my faith and values will be so much easier because of this simple start.

Saint Gianna Molla-pray for us!

I've been tagged!

My wonderful blogging friend, Jennifer, at My Chocolate Heart, has tagged me to make some lists of 8 assorted trivia answers about myself. What a fun idea! Here goes...

8 things I'm looking forward to:

1. The weekend!
2. Camping in Door County.
3. My spiritual direction meeting later this week.
4. Meeting a new friend for coffee, also later this week.
5. Watching some of my son Jack's baseball games this summer.
6. Lounging on the sun-porch with a good book. (I always look forward to this!)
7. Celebrations of Father's Day and Joe and Mary's birthdays this month.
8. Going to bed and getting a good night's rest! (It was a long day!)

8 things I did yesterday:

1. Went to Mass.
2. Visited my mother-in-law on her birthday.
3. Attended a "Families in His Presence" adoration and benediction in honor of the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
4. Made a big breakfast.
5. Hung laundry on the line in the sunshine.
6. Wrote on my blog.
7. Read some of JPII's encyclicals.
8. Read the newspaper.

8 things I wish I could do:

1. Become a regular columnist for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald or Living our Faith website.
2. Write a book.
3. Keep my house clean for 5 minutes!
4. Keep the kids clothes sorted for 5 minutes!
5. Inspire others to know and love the Lord.
6. Lose 20 pounds for good!
7. Have Lasik surgery.
8. Go on a silent retreat.

8 shows I watch

1. American Idol-that's it really, unless there's a good movie on, I just don't like tv, not even the news.

8 favorite fruits

1. cherries
2. strawberries
3. blueberries
4. blackberries
5. apples-especially cortland
6. clementines
7. nectarines
8. plums

8 places I would like to travel

1. the Holy Land
2. Kentucky-especially to Gethsemane
3. someplace warm and tropical with sandy beaches and fruity drinks
4. Bayfield, WI
5. Rome
6. Prince Edward Island, Canada(that's all I can think of- I've never been anywhere and would be so happy to just go anywhere really!)

8 places I have lived

1. Manitowoc, WI (2 different addresses)
2. Milwaukee, WI (3 different addresses)
3. West Allis, WI (one address!)

Ok, I just realized that I haven't been anywhere and I'm not going anywhere and I don't do much-is my life really that dull? Well, what could be more exciting than raising 5 kids I don't know!!!

5 people I have tagged:
Inside Out
Living in His Amazing Grace
My Silent Journey
Poetry and Paradise
Journey of a Soul

Tag! You're it! Pass it on!

Angels of Annunciation

Another day, another dollar...another chance to give my life to God.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God”…Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 26-38

We all have annunciation moments, but unfortunately, we are often unaware of exactly what is happening to us. Sometimes in our busyness we become so preoccupied with ourselves and our own needs that we fail to recognize those angels when they come to us.

In my job as a WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Nutritionist, I have found that the angels of annunciation come to me nearly constantly. I can be so focused on what I have to do after work, or some problem with my children that nags at the back of my mind, or my own level of fatigue from lack of sleep, that I can let those angels in and out of my office all day without realizing who they are. What a shame!

But when I open my heart and open my eyes, I see that angels of annunciation are plentiful. God is trying to speak to me through them all day, every day, and when I recognize them, I can’t help but be changed by their message.

I recently met an angel who was a drug addict suffering from the horrific pains of withdrawal. Instead of sitting in my usual seat of judgment, I opened my heart to recognize that the message she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to see through my addiction, to find Jesus inside me. Jesus suffered just like I am suffering. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I listened to her story, with tears in my eyes and I was able to offer her comfort and assistance. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

I also met an angel who was a student working through her internship requirements for graduation. Instead of rushing through my usual day trying to get my job done, I opened my heart to recognize the message that she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to see that you were once in my shoes. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I slowed down from my busy agenda and found the patience to teach her the steps required to give nutrition counseling to young mothers in need. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

One of my favorite angels was a two-year-old girl going through the negative stages through which every two-year-old must pass. Instead of becoming irritated by her temper tantrums and constant use of the word “NO”, I opened my heart to recognize the message that she was telling me was “Do not be afraid, God is calling you to offer me kindness, to remember that it is the little ones such as these to whom Jesus offered the Kingdom of God. Are you open to helping me? It is you that God is calling, you are the favored one.” So I turned to her with a smile. I offered her a book, a compliment and a pat on the head. She walked out of my office with a smile on her face, calling out “I love you!” “I love you, too!” I called back. I became the handmaid of the Lord.

God’s angels of annunciation are coming to you as well. They are in every person that crosses your path. Will you be open to their messages? Will you hear them say “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God? Will you feel God’s Spirit coming to you and allow yourself to be open to it? Say yes! Become the handmaid of the Lord and watch the world transform into a beautiful place!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Favorite Quotes/JPII/Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

“In a certain sense Mary lived the Eucharistic faith by offering her virginal womb for the incarnation of God’s Word, anticipating in herself what in some degree happens to every believer who receives the Lord’s body and blood in communion. There is a similarity between Mary’s “Fiat” at the Annunciation and the “Amen” of the believer who receives communion. Mary became in some way a tabernacle, the first tabernacle in history, in which the Son of God was adored by Elizabeth. And Mary’s gaze contemplating the face of the newborn Christ, cradling him in her arms, is the model that should inspire us, when we receive Eucharistic communion.”

Pope John Paul II
Ecclesia de Eucharista

Holy Mother Mary, thank you for your “Fiat”. Thank you for the example you gave us of adoration and love in the contemplation of your Son.

Each time we lift up our hands to receive our Lord’s most holy Body and Blood in communion and then gently place him in our mouths to ingest this holy food, we imitate you, beautiful Mother. We say, “yes” wholeheartedly to carrying our Lord within our very bodies and allowing him to radiate out to the world around us. Just as a pregnant woman takes extra care of herself to nourish and love the baby growing within her, teach us to take extra care of ourselves to nourish and love the life of Christ that grows within us each day. What an honor and joy this is! At the same time, what an incredible responsibility this is as well! It is a call for each of us to show our appreciation for the very noble sacrifice that Jesus paid for our sins. It is a chance for us to live our lives well, rejecting sin and embracing love in gratitude for the great love that Christ paid for us with his broken body and his outpoured blood. Help us to use this knowledge of Christ living within each and every one of us, as an opportunity to love others well, with our whole hearts, and to gaze upon each other, as we would gaze upon Jesus himself, with the adoration and reverence deserved by one who sacrificed His life for our freedom from sin.


Friday, June 12, 2009

A Most Creative God

What peace I feel!
I’m all alone,
Early in the morning.

I watch
As God draws the sun
Up out of the horizon
And the entire sky
Blazes into beautiful
Shades of pink, blue and yellow.

Whenever I feel sad,
I will look back
Into my memory
To this moment,
This glorious vision,
And peace and joy will
Return to me.

Through this sunrise
I know that God
Loves this world.
There is no greater gift
Than the opportunity
To witness this scene
And bask in the artwork
Of a most creative God.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guest Writer

My mom was feeling a bit stressed today, so I offered to write the blog post. I entered this poem in a contest at my high school. It didn't win, but I think it still has merit. I hope you like it...John


I created the World.
I created it to bring you joy, beauty, happiness.
I created it for you to bring you peace, prosperity and knowledge of my power and wisdom.

I created human life.
I created it to make the world a brighter place.
I created it to give me joy.
I gave humans the opportunity to live with me in paradise in the garden.
I created everything to give them happiness, pleasure and the knowledge of my great love for them.

I knew all about them even before I created them.
I knew all of their plans, desires, thoughts, wishes, wonders.
I knew all about their minds.
I knew how weak they were.
I knew that no matter how much of myself I gave out to them,
they would not care for it.
Instead they would only care about worldly things like money and power.
They would not care for my plans for them.
They did not want to live in accord with me, but wanted to live separate from me.

I became angry.
I was hurt.
I was troubled!
I was so sad that these people would rather live in the dark then the light.

I had a plan to save them that would be the greatest mystery the world would ever see.
My plan was to send my only Son to them. He was to teach them my ways and my special plan for each of them, and most importantly he was to take their sin.
He was to perform the ultimate sacrifice by taking the sins of everyone on earth.
I was willing to give up my Son whom I loved, so that I could save you and live in your hearts.

Come all who can hear!
Give up your ways, just as I gave up my Son!
Listen to my words of Salvation!
Bring all your troubles!
Bring all your fear!
Bring all your sins!
I thirst for these so that I may wash and cleanse you and make you whole again!

I long for you!
Turn from your ways!
Take even a step toward me and I will run the rest of the way to you!
Oh beautiful people whom I have created in my image, come and bask in my light!
Come and sit in my presence so that I can tell you how much I love you!
I died for you to show you how much I love you and that I want you to be with me in Heaven!

Blessed are those who hear me!
Open your hearts for I will come into them and will live in you forever!
How wonderful are you who follow my ways!
Let me wrap my arms around you!
Let me pour out my love to you!

I forgive you of your wrongdoing.
I forgive you of your sins.
I will always forgive and love you!

Come to me!
Oh my people, I stand at your doors and knock!
Please open so that I may enter and live with you forever and ever!

By: John Paul Bender, age 15

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Psalm 16 for Pregnancy

“Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope. Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence.” Psalm 16

Isn’t this a perfect prayer for a little baby growing inside his mother’s womb? Picture that sweet little baby, stretching, growing, fumbling and completely oblivious to any worries. His needs for nutrition, warmth and safety are all being met by the mother who cradles him within her very self. Before she even becomes conscious of the baby growing inside of her, she loves him and wants him. She eagerly waits for the day of his birth. She eats well and tries to rest. She exercises to stay physically strong. She keeps all of her doctor appointments and follows his advice. She spends prayerful time with the Lord, asking for blessings upon her baby and herself.

This little angel baby can indeed have a glad heart and a rejoicing soul. His little body can completely abide in confidence, knowing that the mother he has been entrusted to, has entrusted herself to the care of God.

For Melissa and Adam-congratulations on your pregnancy-I'm so happy for you!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Power of the Spirit

One year ago today, a six-year-old girl, Mackenzie Maddox and her mother, Andrea, were hit by a car while crossing the street. Mackenzie did not survive. Her family continues to grieve,deeply. Although I have never met this family, I too, grieve with them...

I’m amazed when I realize how the Holy Spirit uses people to bring about good in this world. I am even more amazed when I realize that the Holy Spirit uses me to console others. I feel so small and little, how can I be of any use to anyone, I wonder? And then He shows me that all I have to do is something small and little, and that’s enough.

I learned about a song from the Unitarian Church called “Everything is Holy Now”. It was about how God can be found everywhere, in everything. I liked that idea and ever since I heard about it, I have been doing my best to see God everywhere, in everything.

I am an occasional runner. Last year, while running past a local park, I noticed two yellow birds flying together, in obvious joy, near a glade of evergreen trees. I felt God’s presence in those birds and ran home to write a poem about it. It wasn’t much of a poem, nothing that I thought I would ever share with anyone, but it became a prayer for me whenever I ran past those trees, to thank God with the words “Everything is Holy Now”.

Then one day, I noticed a road-side memorial set up by that glade of trees, the kind that commemorates the death of someone at that location. While watching the local news, I learned that a six-year-old girl, Mackenzie, was hit by a car and died at that very spot. I struggled to see what could possibly be holy in the death of a young girl.

A few days later, at morning Mass, Fr. Dave announced that he was presiding at Mackenzie's funeral. He said that he was praying to the Holy Spirit to help him find the right words to say.

After Mass, I asked Fr. Dave why he would find it so hard to find the words to say at the funeral, after all, hasn’t he presided at thousands of funerals? He answered, with tears in his eyes, that funerals for children are rare. So, I told him about my poem. I said it wasn’t much, but maybe he would find it to be helpful and he said he would like to see it. I e-mailed my poem to him, and later during that same day, he wrote back saying that Mackenzie's mother, Andrea, liked the poem and they decided to use it to begin the eulogy homily.

God used me and my simple little poem, to bring a bit of healing and comfort to a grieving family. Isn't it amazing, that there are times when we are compelled to do something without understanding why we need to do it, and after we follow through, we realize that our compulsion had nothing to do with us, but everything to do with God's will for us?

The power of the Spirit…

It has been one year today since Mackenzie died. The roadside memorial is still standing, often refreshed by loving and grieving family members. I continue to thank God with the prayer “Everything is Holy Now” whenever I run past the memorial, because I believe that Mackenzie is in heaven and it is she who is holy now.

I ask God to comfort all of the parents who grieve the loss of their children, I ask Him to cradle all of the sweet babies that have gone to heaven too early in His gentle arms, and I ask him to continue to help us all to find the holiness in life, even when it is difficult.

Yellow Birds

At the edge of the park, there is a beautiful glade of evergreen trees.
The ground around them is covered with wildflowers and tall grasses.

I watch in joy and wonder as two bright yellow birds
dance and flutter among the flowers.

I am filled with a delightful awe
at the quiet beauty that you have
blessed this world with, Lord.

A prayer comes to my mind and heart-
“Everything is Holy Now.”

May the soul of Mackenzie and all of the souls of the faithful departed,through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Forbidden Fruit

Monday morning work story...

A three-year-old boy walked into my office and immediately opened my desk drawer. His mother, embarrassed, scolded him and directed his attention to the basket of toys. Happily distracted, he forgot all about the temptation of the desk drawer.

Another three-year-old boy entered my office. He too, found my desk drawer and immediately opened it. He found the apple that I was saving for my lunch and he began to eat it. His mother ignored him and didn’t acknowledge his behavior. I smiled and said, “How hungry you must have been! How lucky for you that you found a nice, healthy apple to eat!”

Lord, let me hunger for you, like that boy hungered for my apple. Don’t let anything hold me back. Amen.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Spirit in the Wind

"Listen closely to the wind. It is the sound of leaves in the trees dancing and writing beautiful poetry across the sky." Flavia

My dear friend, Danette, gave me a plaque with these words written on it at a time when I was feeling discouraged and wanted to give up writing. I believe it was a gift to me from the Holy Spirit, moving through Danette, to my heart. I can't ever hear the wind without thinking of the Holy Spirit. Can you just feel the Holy Spirit writing poetry across the sky, right into your heart and soul? He's telling you that he loves you and he wants you to feel joy and peace. I thank the Holy Spirit for always being present to me, and I thank Danette for allowing the wind of the Holy Spirit to work through her for my benefit.

Wondrous Holy Spirit,

Thank you for working in our hearts with your beautiful poetry of love and friendship. Thank you for using our lives to bring your joy and peace to those around us who are in need of encouragement.


Holy Trinity

“You must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and there is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40

From the earliest age, Catholic parents teach their children to reverently make the sign of the cross as a physical prayer of faith in the Holy Trinity. The cross that we trace over our bodies seals us with the Trinity so that the Lord our God is indeed fixed in our hearts, forever. Crossing ourselves can become such a habit, that we can forget what we are doing, and mindlessly cross ourselves when passing a church, a cemetery or talking with others about some way in which God has saved us from tragedy in our lives.

I have a new co-worker who is atheist. From her first day on the job, she told me loudly and clearly that she does not believe in anything or anyone, and does not appreciate being preached at. I try to be sensitive to her wishes, and keep my faith to myself. It’s pretty hard, because I do have holy cards posted on my bulletin board in my office and a few other religious pictures on my office shelf. But, when co-workers engage in general conversation, I do try to keep my faith to myself and only talk about it with those whom I know don’t mind. Instead, I try to follow the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi in his advice to “preach the gospel at all times, if necessary, use words”. I feel that I can be more effective at sharing my faith by living my life well, with kindness and respect for others rather than ‘pushing’ my faith at them.

But, it’s a lot harder to keep my faith to myself than you would think. One way it seems to show through is in the Sign of the Cross. Last winter, I was sharing a scary story about my experience of a near-accident on an icy road. I found that I was automatically crossing myself as I expressed my gratitude to have come out of that experience unscathed. I looked up and noticed my atheist co-worker scowling at me. I admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable about not honoring her non-beliefs. But after some thought, I realized that respect is a two-way street and that she too, should be honoring my beliefs. It is impossible for me to keep my faith to myself, because it is fixed in my heart. The fact that I automatically made the Sign of the Cross in gratitude for my good fortune is an obvious sign to me that my faith must be shared, in words or actions. It is going to spill forth from my heart for the world to see, no matter how conscious I am of trying to hold it inside.

So, I live my faith as best I can. I praise God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit with the Sign of the Cross, the sign of my faith, and the sign of my life. I will gladly endure scowls and criticism in my open witness because my Lord and Savior endured so much more for me.

Happy Feast of the Trinity!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Poetry and Paradise

My sister,Debby, writes beautiful poetry. She has just started a blog and I'd like to invite you to visit her site and enjoy her wonderful writings! You can find her on my blog list.

Friday, June 5, 2009

God's Microscope

My oldest son, John, has been out of school for two weeks now, and today is Justin's graduation from 8th grade. One more week and it's summer vacation for everyone!!!!

I thought a camping reflection would fit the summer season...

Sitting around the campfire, watching the bright orange embers give way to blue, green, yellow and red flames can hypnotize me. The warmth that the fire produces draws me into a trance. Listening to the quiet voices around me share scary campfire stories brings me gratitude for my family members who have the gift of storytelling. The wide-eyed children huddle in closer to the fire in an effort to allay their fears.

As I hold my overtired and fearful daughter Mary on my lap, I lean back in my chair and look to the sky. What I see there is even more beautiful than the hypnotic fire.

The trees that surround our campsite create a circle silhouette in the dark night sky. In the middle of the circle of tree branches, the dark sky glimmers with millions of stars shining so brightly that it is almost heartbreaking. I feel as if I am sitting under a microscope and God is peering down from the sky, through the trees to watch my family. The stars are the specks of pride in his eyes for all of his creation with whom he is so madly in love. God is so generous to share these natural gifts with his lowly, human creatures. How blessed we are to receive his gifts, and how happy he is to see our gratitude.

We are the same, yet, we are different

Diversity...we hear so much about it these days. The large company that I work for requires all of its employees to attend annual diversity training in an effort to help us understand those who are different from us in any way. It’s a good thing!

Yesterday, my daughter Mary was honored with an award for academic achievement. I had never heard of this award before. It was given by the Public Schools to Parochial School students. The award dinner was held at a Lutheran School. It was attended by hundreds of families. The crowd was diverse. Many races, cultures, and faiths were represented. We were black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. We were Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish and Muslim. Everyone got along very peacefully as we rejoiced together in the achievements of our children.

It was hard not to notice the Jewish and Muslim families, because their faiths require them to dress in a way that shows their faith to the world. I'm impressed by that. Can anyone tell that I am Catholic by the way I dress? Even more impressive was the fact that although a delicious chicken dinner was served, the Jewish family who was sitting at our table, brought their own Kosher food to eat. They did not seem to be sad or embarrassed to bring their own food. Instead, I think they were proud to witness to their faith, even and especially, in a public gathering.

During the dinner, an 8th grade boy got up to sing a few songs. He had a beautiful voice and was very brave to share it with everyone at the dinner. Braver still, was the fact that the songs he sang were Christian songs about how much he loves Jesus and how Jesus guides his life. Not many 8th graders that I know would be willing to publicly witness to their faith in Jesus. Someone walked over to the Jewish family and asked them if they were offended by the songs. "Not at all!” the father replied. "That boy has talent!"

I was so proud to be a part of that awards program with that wonderful diverse group. So often today, we seem to fear our differences instead of embracing them. Not too long ago, a public high school in our community held their commencement exercises at a large Christian Church. People complained and said that the church should cover the Cross so non-Christians wouldn't be offended. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if those non-Christians would have held the attitude of that Jewish father? Wouldn't it have been nice if they could have appreciated the large space that was open to them, and accepted the fact that the Christian community was generous to share their building, instead of asking them to hide who they are? The Christians at that church should be able to witness to their faith with all those who entered the building regardless of what others might believe.

I don't think that God really cares about different religions. I think that God just wants everyone to come to Him, to love Him. For me, I couldn't think of a better way to come to God than through my Catholic faith. I love its rich traditions and values. I love and embrace everything about it. But maybe, the Jewish or the Muslim person next to me feels the same way about their faith. I believe that God looks into everyone's heart, sees the love and commitment to Him that lives in our hearts, and is pleased, regardless of our faith traditions. After all, there is only One God, and we are all his children!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Favorite Quotes/Julian of Norwich

"For that contrariness is cause of our tribulations and all our woe, and our Lord Jesus taketh them and sendeth them up to Heaven,and there they are made more sweet and delectable than heart may think or tongue may tell."

Blessed Julian of Norwich
Revelations of Divine Love

Jug of Prayer

At that time,then, she spread out her hands, and facing the window, poured out her prayer. Tobit 3:1-11a,16-17

I am a jug full of prayer. I gradually and timidly begin to empty myself, drop by drop, into the heart of God. Then someone bumps me from behind. I lose control and the prayers in my jug pour out unrestrained. God's heart is so big, it can handle the rush of my poured-out prayer. I am left empty, patiently waiting for God to fill me with His answer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jack's Day in Madison

"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." from Mark 12:13-17

Today Jack went to Madison with his fourth grade class to discover the State Capitol. An historic event, yes? At dinner, Paul and I asked him about his day. We wanted to know what great sites he had seen. We wanted to know if he met any important Senators or Congressmen. Here's what he had to say..."When we ate lunch in the cafeteria, I saw 3 vending machines with Skittles in them!" That's it! The highlight of his day!

It's pretty close to home for me, I'm sorry to say. I have always been fearful of conflict, and politics are always fraught with lots of conflict. So, I remember to vote following my conscience and my Catholic faith, I sign petitions when I am so moved, I recently pasted a "Right to Life" bumper sticker on my van, but aside from that, I try to keep quiet about my political views because I am a coward who hides in the background while others boldly stand up for the important moral issues. And look what that gets me! I have a son who is more interested in candy than the great sights of his State Capitol.

On the plus side, Jack loves to pray. He never complains about attending daily Mass. He gladly cantors the Alleluia verse for Sister Doris whenever she asks him to. He asks to pray the Stations of the Cross during Lent. He talks his brothers and sisters into "playing" Mass on frequent occasions. He says he wants to be a priest.

I guess today I could say that Jack rendered unto Caesar the limited attention that was mandated by his fourth grade requirements, but he gives unlimited attention to his Heavenly Father. I pray that he continues to give God his all, because after all, Jack belongs to God.

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 agree on a night out once a 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! HA!

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 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.

Response: pray for us

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.

The Flame

Watch the candle flame.
It is always reaching, stretching.
Is it trying to reach heaven?

I am like a flame.
I am always reaching, stretching.
Will I ever reach heaven?

Restless Heart

Lord, you created me to be restless until I rest in you.
I am so tired, Lord!
I long to rest in the palm of your hand.
Your hand feels so warm and comforting.
I put my head down and begin to drift off to sleep.
Then, you spread your fingers apart, and I fall out of your hand.
I am jolted back to reality!
My restless heart searches for your hand once again.
Once more, I begin the arduous journey to the peace and love
that can only come from resting in you.
Please hold me tight, Lord, don’t let go.

The Flavor of the Lord


When I receive you in Holy Eucharist, I am awakened to love by my sense of taste. In your Body and Blood, I taste bitter and sweet flavors.

The bitterness reminds me of the great price you paid with your very life because you love me. The sweetness reminds me of the freedom that I have received through your love.

These flavors speak your word to me, Lord, in silence. All I can do is relish the taste and realize that all of life if flavored by your bitterness and your sweetness. All of life is touched by your sorrow and your joy.

These two flavors belong together and cannot be separated. Everywhere I go, everything I do, everyone I see, brings out your aura of bitter and sweet.

Both are one gift.
Both are one love.


Monday, June 1, 2009

A Fragrant Flower

You are a flower in my heart
You are bright and colorful
Absolutely beautiful to behold
When I get close to you,
I notice that you offer more
Than beauty for my eyes
But your petals contain a
Fragrance so sweet, it consumes my senses.

I want to pick you from your stem, and hold you
And keep you forever.
But I can’t.
For to do that, would be to destroy you.
The life that flows through you from the earth
Would be cut off.
Without that nourishment, you will wither and decay
Your petals will turn brown and fall off.
Your rich fragrance will die.
You won’t resemble what you once were.
Your beauty will be gone.

If I love you, really love you
(and I do)
I will leave you right where you are planted.
I will resist the urge to pluck you.
I will stop and admire your color and your fragrance.
I will breathe you in deeply with my senses.
I will memorize your beauty.
Then, I will pass on by.
I will leave you right where you are, unharmed.
You will remain where others can enjoy your beauty as well.

In my mind, you will always remain fresh,
Fragrant, and lovely.
I can return to you anytime I want.
You will be my fragrant flower memory of love.
Thank you for sharing your beauty with me.

Daily Mass

"The Mass is the most important work of the day."
Servant of God, Dorothy Day

A Prayer for the Daily Mass Crowd

Wonderful Jesus,
As I sit with my children
in the back pew of church
I look over all of my fellow churchgoers.

Although they are much older
than me and my family,
they seem to have a youthful spirit
about themselves.

Their bodies may be feeling
the aches and pains of old age,
but their eyes betray their bodies.
For in their eyes
a sparkle exists
that spreads into a smile
covering their entire faces.

Those sparkling eyes speak of
knowledge and wisdom and maturity
which only comes from endurance
through trials and challenges.
They represent faithfulness and constancy
in all circumstances.
No matter what happens in their lives,
they keep coming back to God.

Their wisdom and love draw me in
and open a desire
in my heart
to follow in their paths.

We are one as we kneel and pray.
We are one as we silently adore the
uplifted Host.
We are one as we wave to one another
in a gesture of peace.

Although I am many years their junior
they accept me and fold me into their circle
of friendship.
Some share their life stories with me.
Others share gifts for my children.
Some, whose names I don’t know,
simply share this daily time of prayer with me.
That is more than enough.

Lord, I pray for these men and women
because I love them so and I love how much they love you.