Saturday, May 29, 2010

Parade of Emotions

There's just something about a summer parade that seems to make me very emotional. Maybe it's the combination of warm weather and relaxing with my family that brings down my defenses and lets my true feelings show.

Most parades start with the American flag and our veterans who so proudly served our country. Witnessing these brave men and women, and all of the people honoring their commitment to America by standing with their hands over their hearts always begins a flow of tears from my eyes as my heart tugs with a mix of pride and love.

The tears are soon wiped away as Santa appears in Bermuda shorts with a gaudy, artificial white Christmas tree and shouts out "I'm watching you!" He's followed by bubble blowing men wearing Hawaiian grass skirts who are joined by several silly clowns. How can I not smile at these delightful people?

Then the tears start again when a truck appears with several elderly men sitting in the back wearing white shirts and black ties enjoying some of their favorite polka tunes. I am reminded of my dad and his love for polkas. It was in this season of summer that his earthly life passed into eternity.

But tears easily turn to laughter when a fire truck drives by and squirts the sun-baked crowd with water hoses. Even more laughter erupts when the crowd begins to throw water balloons at the firemen! But the best gut-wrenching laugh comes when a water balloon misses its target and hits my brother-in-law right in the stomach!

Here come the tears again as a convertible car drives by transporting a beautiful girl in an evening gown with a sash and crown and I hear my daughter Mary call out "You're pretty!" Mary is so sweet and honest and I am so proud of her!

Back to the smiles as a float arrives with a young rock band wailing out an angst filled song. Their long hair that hides their faces cannot hide the fact that their heads bang back and forth to the music and I catch my teenage sons following the band with their eyes all the way down the street with looks of longing on their faces.

Something about the antique fire trucks with their sirens blaring sends a chill through my body in spite of the heat of the day and the tears fill my eyes once again. Laughter returns when the clerks from the local grocery store march past pushing grocery carts filled with (what else?) water balloons!

The tears of National Pride are turned back on again as the High School Marching Band passes by blasting out "America the Beautiful" on their horns and drums. It causes goose bumps to appear on my arms and I automatically rub them to bring some warmth back to my body even though I am standing in the blazing sun.

Delight resumes when the children cry "CANDY"! and scramble to collect the treats that are thrown at their feet. Mary has the spirit of sharing as she throws a few pieces back to me and my husband. And what kind of treat does the Natural Food Store give out? Why fresh daisies, of course!

The parade is complete with horses and cowboys, antique cars and historical costumes. My family packs up our chairs, blankets and candy (please don't forget the candy!) and drive home with satisfied smiles on our faces and warm feelings in our hearts.

I realize that the parade is like life, an absurd mix of joys and sorrows, side by side, one after the other. And somehow, it seems right that parades and life should be this blend of ups and downs. God created our lives to be connected with others, we are meant to share our joys and sorrow standing side by side in our community. We strengthen each other in our sorrow and laugh with each other in our joy. I thank God for summertime parades of emotion and lifelong journeys of emotion as well. Joy and sorrow belong together just as naturally as we all belong to God. I love and embrace this contradiction, this joy and sorrow intertwined. I am thankful for this lifelong mingling of emotion that draws us closer to one another and closer to God.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rise-A Story of Ordination to the Priesthood

He lay on the cold, marble floor, face buried in his arms, body covered by white alb, with only the back of his head and his black shoes exposed. While the Litany of the Saints Chant swirls throughout the Cathedral, he submits himself to God and His Church, and as the last echo of the chant fades away, he will rise to face the challenge of his submission.

Later in the Liturgy, he assumes a posture of kneeling, as one by one, his brother priests lay their hands upon his head, calling down the Holy Spirit to dwell within his soul, and forever change him. Each set of hands that presses upon him creates more room within him for the indwelling of the One who will assist him to rise to his new life in the Spirit.

As he is invested with a stole and chasuble, a visible sign that he is one who has “put on Christ”, it seems like a veil has shifted and his appearance takes on the look of one who will rise above the ordinary to that of an extra-ordinary leader, one who will care for others as a father, a mother, a sibling and a friend. It is clear to see that his call is being fulfilled and his face shines with the brilliant light of Christ.

Finally, kneeling once again, the Archbishop consecrates his open hands with the Chrism that will soak through his skin and become a permanent part of him. Leaving him with a kiss upon those holy hands, the Archbishop watches him rise to face the church full of witnesses, no longer simply a holy man, but now “a priest, forever”.

This day of Ordination is also a day of Ascension for him, when, like Christ being lifted to heaven in a cloud, he, too, is surrounded by a cloud of sweet and fragrant incense which rises in prayer. The new priest himself becomes a prayer that will rise to bring Christ to the world through his love, his faithfulness, his service and his own words of prayer.

The overwhelming message of this day is “get up, begin, and rise”. After many long years of preparation, it is time to magnify the presence of the Lord within himself and allow it to surge outwards to all of the faithful. From this day on, each time he elevates the host and chalice, he himself will ascend to a loftier place, the place of heaven on earth as he acts in persona Christi. And as the faithful look on, our very spirits rise to heaven with him as we flourish in prayers of adoration for our Redeemer and prayers of admiration and thanksgiving for the man who brings the True Presence of our Lord into our hearts and souls at each Mass.

(Written in gratitude for the new priests ordained to the priesthood this Spring, especially for Fathers Chuck Wrobel, Matthew Widder, Erich Weiss and Anthony Primal Thomas who were ordained on May 23rd at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Thank you for answering the call and rising to service in the Church! For more pictures, visit this link.)

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Elisabeth Leseur

Every once in a while, the Holy Spirit slips a book into my hands and it has such a deep influence on me, that my life becomes changed for the better for having read it. Several years ago I purchased a wonderful book by Gina Loehr called “Real Women, Real Saints.” It was the composite of many wonderful women who were each called upon to draw the world closer to God in their own unique ways. A few weeks ago, I was praying to learn God’s will for me in my vocation as wife and mother and to show me how to draw my family ever closer to God and to deep devotion towards him, when I remembered reading about Elisabeth Leseur in Gina’s book.

Elisabeth Leseur was a Frenchwoman who lived from 1866-1914. She was a devout Catholic who was married to an atheist. Her husband and his atheistic friends would tease and criticize Elisabeth for her faith. She decided that she would not antagonize them, but rather, kept her faith inside and released it into a journal. She offered up all of the sufferings that she endured, both from the torment of her husband with whom she was deeply in love, and from her many physical sufferings that resulted in her death from breast cancer, in a pact with God. The gist of the pact was that her sufferings would bring about a change in her husband so that he would return to Catholicism and become a priest upon her death. Her husband, Felix, read her diary after she died, and he did indeed, convert and become a priest. Elisabeth Leseur’s cause for canonization continues to be investigated today.

Her journal, “My Spirit Rejoices”, was published by Felix. In it, I found many quotes that caused my own spirit to rejoice. In this Catholic laywoman, I found a kindred spirit who could reinforce my need to take all things to God and to maintain a joyful presence for my family and the world around me. What follows are some of the quotes from her journal that most moved my heart. It is my prayer that they will move your heart as well!

Elisabeth Leseur Quotes from My Spirit Rejoices

“My present trial seems to me a somewhat painful one, and I have the humiliation of knowing how badly I bore it at first. I now want to accept and to carry this little cross joyfully, to carry it silently, with a smile in my heart and on my lips, in union with the Cross of Christ. My God, blessed be Thou; accept from me each day the embarrassment, inconvenience, and pain this misery causes me. May it become a prayer and an act of reparation."

“A few moments of meditation and recollection each morning in the presence of God transforms and perfumes the whole day, like flowers cast about when night comes, whose fragrance at dawn anoints everything they have touched.”

“It is a difficult task, a heroic effort, to bring forth the thought that is in us, but we must do it, breaking our souls as we might break a sacred vase so that others may breathe the divine perfume.”

“Silence is sometimes an act of energy, and smiling, too.”

“When blood no longer flows from an open wound, to the indifferent eye it seems that healing is near. Nothing could be more wrong; the wound that no longer bleeds is the one that will never heal.”

“What good is confiding one’s pains, miseries and regrets to those to whom one cannot say at the end, “pray for me”?

In the book "Selected Writings of Elizabeth Leseur" edited and translated by Janet Ruffing, there are a collection of letters written to friends and family members. In a letter to her Goddaughter as she was preparing for her First Communion, Elisabeth says:

“With the Church, I believe that the whole structure of our moral, national and social life is based on the family, and I am convinced that everything done for the family enhances the greatness and strength of peoples and societies; on the other hand, they are irretrievably destroyed as soon as the family, the cornerstone of the structure, is attacked.
Thus, you will do all you can to strengthen in every way respect for family life. Later on, when you have your own family, you will make your home a warm and lively center of influence, and you will be a guiding spirit for those who live in the light that you spread. You will be a friend and companion to your husband, and a guide and model of moral strength to your children. You will possess that precious treasure…a serenity and peace of mind that nothing can destroy, neither trials nor losses, since God is their source, and God gives them sometimes in proportion to our own sufferings.
This is one of those mysterious compensations, unknown on a purely human level but known only to God who alone reveals the secret.
You will develop the habit through daily effort and the help of God’s grace to “possess your soul in peace,” to be gentle and lovingly composed in your attitude toward events, people and life itself. Sometimes managing to smile requires true heroism; may your smile, whether thoughtful or joyful, always do good.”

Elisabeth Leseur, a married lay woman, is a perfect role model for all married women who strive to serve their husbands and families through silent service and non-stop prayer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ministry of Stewardship-Manning the Barque of Peter

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:36-39

The Catholic Church is often referred to as the “Barque of Peter” in reference to St. Peter’s first career as a fisherman before he became Pope. Every barque or boat, requires a leader or steward to maintain balance during rough seas, to keep the boat floating and to prevent capsizing. But no steward can manage this difficult task alone, he requires the assistance of a faithful crew to successfully sail the ship.

As Pope Benedict is the current leader of this Barque,the Church,all faithful Catholics are called upon to assist him at the helm by witnessing to others and by living our faith. We can best do this attending Sunday Mass and sharing in the life of our parish as active members, freely volunteering our time and giving of our treasure for the common good of all. It is the through the work of volunteer parishioners joyfully rowing the oars that the boat will stay its course when the storms of life become threatening. We are called to prayerfully discern the individual gifts that God has blessed us with, and then offer these gifts back to God in the service of our parish and church. It is especially during times of trial and suffering, when our church needs us the most, that we must fall on our knees in prayer and open our hearts to the generous giving of our time, talent and treasure so that our boat will remain afloat. In the words of St. Anselm,

“The Barque of the Church may be swept by the waves, but it can never sink, because Christ is there. When the church is in greatest need, Christ comes to its help with miracles or by raising up saintly men and women to purify it. It is the Barque of Peter, and when the storms threaten to sink it, the Lord awakens from his sleep and commands the winds and waters into calm.”

No matter how turbulent the waters may become, Jesus is always at the ready to protect us, provide for us and defend us. And the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay men and women of the church are all in this together, each fulfilling our functions and providing for those who need our gifts. We work as a team, pulling together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Golden Drops-Free Offer

Please visit my friend, Victor's blog, Time for Reflections to pick up your free copy of his new E-Book, Golden Drops. This is a book filled with the wisdom of the fictional Fr. Ignatius, a kind, gentle and loving priest who seems to find the solution to some pretty messy problems in record time. Victor is an extremely talented writer who makes Fr. Ignatius seem real. I promise that you will enjoy Golden Drops tremendously!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stepping Softly Into His Peace

“My profession is to always find God in nature.” Henry David Thoreau

In the midst of chaos, God sends beauty and warmth to comfort us and to remind us of His love. This fact became so very evident to me on a recent field trip with my son and his fifth grade class to the local nature preserve.

Riding on the school bus during the long 45-minute ride to the forest, the screeching, shouting voices of schoolgirls rang out and pained my ears. But someone else’s ears were hurting even more than my own. I glanced at my sweet and sensitive 11-year-old son who was sitting with his friend in the seat behind me. Tears were forming in his blues, entire body trembling from the pain of over stimulation from too much noise with too little meaning.

At long last, the bus slowed to a stop and we stepped into another world, a natural world of hush. Here lay silent beauty waiting to engulf our tired, aching spirits and revive our thirsty souls.

My son stayed close to me, in the back of the group, where we could listen to the explanations of the trail guide, yet enjoy the music of the birds and try to pick out their individual calls without the noise of the other students interfering.

Have you ever noticed the smell of spring? I think it’s the fresh, natural fragrance that brings the butterflies to life and makes them dance among the wildflowers that strain to grow through last autumn’s deadened patches of leaves on the ground. Watching closely, we saw a toad hop toward the pond, perhaps startled out of his hiding place by the shaking of the ground from the many footsteps passing by.

We were in the midst of God’s arms, walking side by side, just my son and I, as if we were all alone in this beautiful world of nature. How could we not feel loved by God, as if the wonder of this perfect day in this natural setting wasn’t meant as a gift for the two of us? At the end of the long hike, we rested our weary bodies on a sunny meadow hillside and watched the puffy clouds pass by, beyond the waves of the birch leaves that danced and whispered in the wind. And we could breathe our prayer of gratitude in deep, drawn out exhalations of praise. I was reminded of Psalm 147:8 “He covers the sky with clouds, he supplies the earth with rain and makes the grass grow on the hills.”

And on the bus ride home, my son refused his friend’s request to share a seat, in favor of sitting with his mom. What a joy to my heart, to know that my son, who would soon become a man, wanted to stay close to me and wasn’t at all embarrassed as I rested my arm across his shoulders. We closed our drowsy eyelids and relaxed in the love of each other and the love of God, holding the silence of the day within us, completely oblivious to the chattering noises of the 5th grade students on the bus, until we arrived home once again.

“I will give you peace and quietness.” 1 Chronicles16:11

(also at