Thursday, December 31, 2009
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.
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
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!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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 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...
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
While on my knees
in adoration of the Blessed Lord
I heard the winter winds
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
"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?"
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
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
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
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
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.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
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
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