Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't Mark My Words

Summertime gets very loud at the WIC Clinic where I work as a nutritionist. For three days each week, some nurses from the School-based Health Program come and give out free immunizations to the little ones who may have fallen behind on their schedules. Needless to say, we listen to A LOT of crying and screaming when the nurses are poking the babies and toddlers with the necessary medicine to keep them in good health. Knowing the pain that the children experience to cause such wails makes me think about the pain of Christ during His own piercing.

Even before the needle stabs his arm,
he knows what is coming and he begins to cry.
Sometimes his mother tries to comfort him
with gentle words and a soothing touch,
but at other times, bone tired and irritable,
she chastises her toddler for carrying on so,
and harshly yells at him to "Shut up or I'll really make you cry!"
Her cold words to her little one must hurt him
more than any needle ever could.

In another time, long, long ago,
He was also stabbed, not by needles but by nails and sword.
He knew what was coming, yet He faced it with courage,
His only tears falling silently in the garden
where they mixed with His blood-tinged sweat as He prayed.
When His time of crucifixion arrived,
His mother stood silently beneath His cross,
longing to reach out and comfort him,
as the crowd harshly jeered
"If you're really the Son of God, why don't you save yourself?"
I wonder if their words hurt him more
than the pain of the nails through His hands.

I also wonder if my own words
quickly spoken without thought to my children
while I am tired or angry,
hurt Him as well, even today.

My sweet and gentle Jesus,
you never hurt anyone,
not physically or with your words,
yet we continue to hurt you
over and over again
with thoughtless remarks
and cruel scoldings.

Teach us to use words of love and
words of kindness,
when we speak to others
so that the pain-inducing stabs
that fly from our tongues
won't leave a permanent
mark of pain in their wake.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Three Favorite Prayers

Sweet and kind Kee at Little Hare has tagged me for a MEME that is going around the blogosphere. I really like this MEME because it's focus is prayer and in reading those prayers of others who have been tagged, I have found that it inspires me to pray in some new and different ways. Thanks, Kee! Here are the rules:

"Name your three favourite prayers, and explain why they're your favourites.
Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme. The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favourite devotional prayers."

1. Prayer to the Wounded Heart of Jesus

O my Most Loving and Gentle Jesus, I desire with all the affections of my heart, that all beings should praise Thee eternally for that Sacred Wound wherewith Thy Divine side was rent.

I deposit, enclose, conceal in that Wound and in that opening in Thy Heart, my heart and all my feelings, thoughts, desires, intentions and all the faculties of my soul. I entreat Thee, by the precious Blood and Water that flowed from Thy Most Loving Heart, to take entire possession of me, that Thou may guide me in all things.

Consume me in the burning fire of thy Holy Love, so that I may be so absorbed and transformed into Thee that I may no longer be but one with Thee. Amen.

I spent 20 minutes in prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus every day this past month of June and believe that it has changed my life! I feel a peace that I have never known and I am confident of God's love for me, knowing that He is holding me within His Sacred Heart. As I mentioned in a previous post, on the second day of my prayers, I received a sign of God's love when I found a piece of red sea glass that is shaped like a heart with a gash in the side. This is one of the prayers I prayed.

2. Prayer of St. John Vianney

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You. I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally...My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

This is so beautiful, I know it must please God to hear these words often.

3. St. Augustine's Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

I have this prayer attached to my computer at work to remind me that it is the Holy Spirit who makes my work holy. Sometimes when I am dealing with people who dress provocatively or use foul language or speak crassly to their children, I need to remember that God is within them. The Holy Spirit helps me to cope when I get down on the people that God has brought into my life through my job at the WIC Clinic.

Finally, I just have to add that a great deal of my prayer comes in little bursts throughout the day. I only need to see or hear something that triggers a prayer such as "Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I love you, save souls" or "Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" or "Look to Him, that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame." This passage from Prayers of Hope by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan says it so well...

"Lord, you have given me a model for prayer: the Our Father. It is brief, concise, and packed with meaning. Your life, Lord, is a sincere and simple prayer addressed to your Father. Your prayer was sometimes long, like your ardent and spontaneous prayer after the Last Supper.

But, often your words, those of your mother and apostles were brief, linking together the actions of daily life. I, who often feel weak and indifferent, love to recall those brief prayers before the Eucharist, at my desk, in the street, alone. The more I repeat them, the more they penetrate me. I am close to you, Lord.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Father, that they may be one.
I am the handmaid of the Lord.
They have no wine.
Behold your son, behold your Mother!
Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.
Lord, what do you want me to do?
Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.
Lord, have mercy on me, a poor sinner."

The life of Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was filled with pain and suffering. As a bishop in Vietnam, he was arrested and spent 13 years in prison, nine of those in solitary confinement. To overcome his intense suffering during this time, he chose to fill every minute of those years with love. He has written several books about his experience and they are deeply inspirational.

Everyone knows that the hardest part of participating in a MEME is to limit yourself to only five people to pass it on to. I would love to know everyone's favorite prayers, but hopefully, this will make itself far enough around that sooner or later, everyone will have a post of their three favorite prayers. I believe this MEME originated with Mac at Mulier Fortis. I pass this MEME on to:

Easter at Mostly Prayers
Fr. James Kubicki at Offer It Up
Michael at Reach Paradise
Do Not Be Anxious
my son, John, at Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call

I look forward to learning about your favorite prayers!

Friday, July 23, 2010


July has been a deluge of storms and rain, it seems that we've been hit with inclement weather at least twice a week this month. I love thunderstorms as long as I am home and everyone is safe, but it's getting to be a little ridiculous when we are hit with seven inches of rain in two hours! Flooded streets and basements have become the norm. We're thoroughly soaked! How I wish I could be soaked with something other than rain...I would love to be saturated with the Precious Blood of Christ...


"Amen" I say, and the cup is offered;
a small sip and I am back
on my knees with the taste of
the Precious Blood still strongly
flavoring my mouth.

A small sip is all it takes
for the Blood of Christ to
saturate every pore of my body.
I am drenched in the beautiful liquid
that quenches my deep thirst for Him.

Oh Lord, let your Most Precious Blood
that poured from your side
permeate my soul forever.
Immerse me, flood me, wash me in your love.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summoned by Love

When an infant grows inside it's mother, it grows in silence. The baby grows without making a sound. I was greatly struck by this passage from "Summoned by Love" by Carlo Caretto. I love how he compares our life on earth with the gestation of a baby. Oh Lord, how I long to see Your face!

"The gestation of a child lasts for nine months. Our gestation as sons of God, a whole lifetime.

The child in its mother's womb has little room to dispose of; in God's womb there is all the room in the world.

But even if we can run and do all sorts of things in it, this is still 'inside', and hence we still can't see the face of our begetter.

"In him, we are, we move, we breathe" (Acts 17:28), but we do not see.

When we eventually emerge, we shall see him face to face, as Scripture tells us.

Now, God wraps us up like this, and the darkness of his activity is called faith; the incentive to become our complete selves is called hope, and the love sustaining all this is called charity.

It is hard for us not to forget that he is there.

It is hard because everything that happens to us, happens in silence, and the silence frightens us.

We should like him to say, "here I am" or reveal his presence with thunder or lightening...but he prefers silence...the things of God have no need of words.

"The heavens proclaim God's glory,
the sky displays his creative skill;
day after day, this is re-attested,
night after night, this is re-affirmed.
Not by speaking, not by talking,
not by any sound that can be heard,
but, by spanning the entire earth,
this message reaches the whole world."

Things speak for themselves; the heavens themselves speak. But God comes in silence...

I know that the path of faith, hope and charity leads in the opposite direction from the path of illusion.

It leads towards God's silence.
Towards the starkness of the Cross.
Towards the transparency of night.
It is like light. In the cosmos all is dark, outside the atmosphere all is dark.
Yet nothing is more luminous than this pure darkness.

-Carlo Carretto
Summoned by Love

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crown of Thorns

Standing in the hot sun,
plucking the dark, plump
blackberries from the canes
and dreaming of the treats
I might create with the fruit,
I carelessly turn
and catch my bare arm on the thorns.

I call out in pain
and pull a thorn from my skin.
I watch the blood
gush out in a bright, red drop.

Didn’t he tell me
to wear long sleeves
while picking berries, as
he dug the heirloom canes
from the ground
for me to transplant
into my garden?
I rarely listened to him
when I was young,
and now that I am
not so young
I still fail to listen
to the sound of his memory
in my mind.

But now, my thoughts wander back
to a garden long ago,
a garden rich and lush
with berries in abundance.
There he stood;
my father,
long sleeves regardless
of the heat,
picking those berries
day in
day out,
until the canes were picked clean,
and gently carrying his
purple treasures to the kitchen
where they would be quickly eaten.

But another man
didn’t enjoy sweet berries
after enduring the pain of thorns.
He wore those thorns tightly
wrapped against his head
with no one to pull them out
when he cried in pain,
and only a stranger,
a lovely, gentle woman,
who offered her veil
to dry his blood.

He carried those thorns with him
to his death
and was only offered
the bitter taste of gall
to quench his deep thirst;
a taste He refused
as the taste of our sin
that filled his mouth
was bitter enough for Him.

Oh sweet Jesus,
how I wish you could know
the flavor of fresh summer-picked
And how I wish I would refrain
from complaining when the thorns
grab hold of my skin.
I want so much to be brave and strong
like You,
to wear my crown of thorns
without complaint.
For I know that when I do
you will be holding out my reward,
a treasure sweeter than any berry,
a life of eternal joy with you
in your heavenly garden.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Liquid Prayer

Last Winter I spent many bitter moments shedding tears of sorrow and depression, so when the joy finally arrived to my heart late this Spring, I was most grateful to brush aside those wet streaks that were forever running down my cheeks and replace them with the wrinkles of a smile. This morning, for the first time in months, I felt the tears hovering at the brim of my eyes once again, but this time, I didn’t quickly wipe them away and I felt no embarrassment over them, for I recognized that they were not tears of sorrow, but rather, they were tears of a different sort; they were tears of gratitude for a life full of living and full of love. I gladly let these tears linger, for I knew they were a most special prayer offered to my God who brought me out of the depths and into the light.

In this year when I am learning to accept whatever crosses or blessings that God chooses to bestow upon me, I choose to list these blessings which I have gratefully accepted and for which I am pleased to let the water of sacred tears fall.

-for a thriving and lush backyard garden abundant in blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, eggplant and peppers

-for the presence of Mr. C at daily Mass after a long absence due to illness. His smile that shone through his pain as he entered the church was a bright spot in my day, and as I watched him struggle to change posture from sitting, to kneeling to standing, I was reminded of our beloved Pope John Paul II from whom we learned so much about the joy that is found within great suffering.

-for the lovely sight of Deacon Christopher Klusman standing like an angel at the altar beside Fr. Dave

-for newly ordained priests and deacons who lift up spirits with their fresh perspectives on the Gospel

-for the opportunity to serve families in need each day, and hopefully make a difference in their lives, bring a little love to their hearts and comfort to their weary souls. Today my heart goes out to a twenty-one year old single mother with four children under the age of five. I remember a time when my four oldest children were all five years old and younger, and I know how hard it is to get through each day, so I am also grateful…

-for my loving husband who has been right by my side every step of the way as we parent our five children together. He does so much…he loves so much, and I know that I could not manage without him

-for our sweet little guinea pig, Daisy, who lets me hold her in the evenings and find comfort in stroking her soft fur. It’s stress relief without the calories of chocolate!

-for my daughter who is taking on the cleaning chores at home this summer to relieve me of some efforts at the end of long and busy days at work

-for the job opportunities which came to my three oldest sons this summer, all through connections at our parish…
John is working full-time at the parish cleaning, doing yard work and general maintenance, Justin is busy mowing lawn for some of the elderly parishioners, and Joe has been asked to assist Fr. Dave with some office chores…
Their employment is a great blessing and I hope that my boys will see that their attendance at daily Mass and all of their service to the parish has provided immediate temporal benefits as well as the many spiritual benefits that will hopefully come in the future

For all of these gifts I am so very thankful, but the one gift which stands out among my list of acceptance, and the one that surprises me the most when I realize that I truly am grateful for it, since I had spent the Winter months bemoaning it, is the gift of tears, sweetly dripping from the corners, blurring my vision of this present reality while clarifying my vision of the joys to come in His kingdom.

“It’s such a secret place, the land of tears.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions

Our parish has a large icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in front of the votive candles. Recently, while lighting a candle, I took a few extra minutes to ponder this icon and I recalled the many times my parents would take me to Our Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions as a child. When I attend daily Mass now, I leave on Tuesday mornings with the ringing of the devotions in my ears, as many of our daily Mass attendees remain in church to pray these devotional prayers. I became hungry to learn more about Our Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions and share here what I have learned...

The history of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions goes back to Crete in the year 1495. It was here that an unknown artist painted the Byzantine Icon and people came to venerate it as Our Mother of Perpetual Help because numerous prayer requests were granted through devotion to her. The icon underwent several relocations as a result of thievery and church damage, and in 1866 it was permanently located in Rome at the church of St. Alphonsus of Liguori under the care of the Redemptorists. At that time, Pope Pius IX asked the Redemptorist Order to make Our Mother of Perpetual Help known throughout the world.

In 1918 the order founded Holy Name Church in Omaha, Nebraska and began a solemn novena that has been prayed during each Tuesday Mass at that church in front of a shrine dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Thousands found comfort and salvation by praying at her shrine and many souls have been brought back to her Divine Son through her intercession. Devotion to this icon quickly spread throughout the United States. St. Alphonsus Church in St. Louis, Missouri began the practice of devotions outside of Mass. These Tuesday night devotions were soon adopted by other churches and took the form of a perpetual novena that is still observed worldwide today.

In the icon, Mary is shown dressed in royal colors with a star on her veil to indicate that she leads the way to Jesus. She is looking directly at us, not to Jesus or with her eyes downcast as she is usually portrayed. This is to signify that she has compassion for our fears and sorrows. The angels Gabriel and Michael are holding the instruments of crucifixion-a lance and sponge, a three bar cross and nails. The Greek letters at the top of the Icon identify their names. The angels are dressed in purple to signify Christ’s passion. The angel’s hands are covered as a sign of reverence for handling sacred objects, just as the priest covers his hands with a humeral veil while holding the monstrance during Benediction.

The child Jesus is shown with an adult face and high brow which indicates his Divine mind. He is shown looking away as if he had been running to his mother for protection from some horrible event. It is assumed that he has witnessed the foreshadowing of his crucifixion. The haste with which he runs to his Mother is depicted by his right sandal dangling loosely by the strap as if it almost fell off, and also by how he clasps his mother’s right hand with both of his. Her hands are held open as if she is inviting us to join her and the Christ child. The next time you are in need, emulate the Christ child and hurry to Our Mother of Perpetual Help with your intentions.

Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. you became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as your loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and God's mercy is from age to age on those who love God. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help.

The feast day of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is on June 27th.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Starting the Day with Sunshine

I can't think of a better way to start the day than by attending daily Mass. Receiving the precious Body and Blood of my Lord and carrying Him within me marks my day as Sacred and Holy. There are very few things that could improve upon this blessed beginning, and lately I have been graced to witness and participate in a tremendous improvement that lifts my spirits sky high.

My eleven-year-old son, Jack, has volunteered to serve at the 7 AM Mass every Wednesday during the summer months. Usually, one of our elderly parishioners serves at the daily Mass, so it is a real treat to see a sweet boy at the altar next to Father. In fact, it is such a treat, that one of our elderly parishioners, Mrs. A, who usually attends daily Mass every day except Wednesday, has begun to come on Wednesdays as well, just for the joy of watching Jack serve. She recently sent me an email to praise Jack and his beautiful smile that never ends the entire time he is serving. Mrs. A says that she greatly admires Jack's sincerity as he assists the priest during Holy Mass.

As if watching Jack serve at Mass isn't joyful enough, our newly ordained transitional Deacon Christopher Klusman has also been assisting at some of the daily Masses. Like Jack, he has a smile that never ends. Listening to him proclaim the Gospel and preach a homily is like watching a living miracle each time he opens his mouth, as the fact that Christopher is deaf would hardly be noticeable to one who wasn't in the know.

This morning, my fourteen-year-old son, Joe, attended Mass with me. Before you jump to too many conclusions thinking what a wonderful and holy teen he is for attending daily Mass when he could be sleeping in as most teens do in the summertime, you should know that the only reason he came along was because he had a basketball camp at eight o'clock and if he wanted a ride there, he had to come to daily Mass with me first. (But secretly, I do believe a wonderful and holy teen is alive in his spirit just waiting to be released, no matter how hard he may try to disguise it!)

As Mass was beginning, Joe leaned over to me and whispered, "Mom, I think we're all going to be blind by the end of this Mass." When I questioned him on this theory, his response was that the brightness of Jack's and Deacon Christopher's never ending smiles would light up the church so much that we would all be covering our eyes as if we were standing out in the bright sunshine! And truly, he was right, because it is impossible to watch those two holy young men without smiling as well. By the time Mass was over, we might not have been blind, but everyone in our church was certainly smiling!

Please keep Jack in your prayers as he continues to serve at Wednesday Masses and weekend Masses and discerns whether or not God is calling him to the priesthood. Please pray for Deacon Christopher as well, as he finishes his last year in the Seminary in preparation for ordination to the priesthood next May.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sweet Berries

The kids and I went on our annual strawberry picking outing yesterday, so with a belly full of strawberry sundae, I offer this re-post from last June.

With warm, early morning sunshine
beating on our backs and
sweet, strawberry fragrance
filling the air,
we kneel in the straw,
plucking the large, juicy fruit from the plants.

With each berry placed in our basket
we offer a prayer of gratitude
to our most loving God
who has blessed us with the gift of this day and
the gift of these fruits, rich in vitamins,
rich in flavor, and rich in sweet aroma.

I recall past outings for berries
when I was younger.
I was lazy, then, about picking,
but eager about eating!
I recall the joy I had in kneeling
side by side with my father,
who could always pick faster than anybody!

Today, I look at my children,
strawberry juice dripping from the corners
of their mouths,
and I marvel at how fast the years have flown.
Wasn't it just yesterday that I was
carrying babies in the sling
out to the fields?

I discover the truth of Psalm 147-
"Swiftly runs His word."
I see it in the living Word of my children
and I know that it will seem like tomorrow
when my own babies will be bringing
their children out to the strawberry fields
for the sweet flavor of red summer delights.

I thank you God,
for our family outing,
for pastoral farm settings,
for blue skies with puffed clouds hanging there
as if in a perfect portrait,
for warm summer weather and
for strawberries, sweet and delicious!