Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fearfully Made

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well."
Psalm 139:13-14

Thanks to Ruth at Dealings with Shadows and Cy at Therese's Roses, both of whom had this amazing video on their blogs. The animation is outstanding! I was struck by how quickly the baby's heart began to beat!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dear Editor

Oh how I hate to foray into politics on this blog, but I simply must, for I cannot keep quiet about this issue which has kept me awake with boiling blood these past few nights. Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin has a long-standing and proven anti-life track record. He would allow for abortions all the way through the end of a term pregnancy. The Milwaukee Catholic Herald, which is published by Archbishop Listecki (whom I cannot fathom would approve of this), placed an advertisement for him in their October 21st issue, stating that they were not endorsing him, but by law, if they were to allow one politician to advertise, then they had to allow all politicians to advertise. That didn't sit too well with me or with my son, John, so we both wrote letters to the editor complaining about how it felt like a slap in the face to open our Catholic newspaper and see a pro-abortion politician staring out at us. We received replies letting us know that our letters were appreciated and that after the upcoming November election they will decide whether or not they will print political advertising in the future. This is my response to his letter.

Dear Brian,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my concerns about the advertisement for Senator Russ Feingold in the October 21st issue of the Catholic Herald. In the secular business world, your letter makes perfect sense, but in the world of Catholicism it makes no sense at all. It was the following two lines that really struck a raw nerve with me: "we solicited advertising" and "the decision to accept or not accept all political ours." It didn't take me too long to find the solicitation to which you refer on the Catholic Herald's web page:

“Let the Catholic Herald and "help you win" your next election.”

Is that really the Catholic Herald's goal, to help political candidates win the election? The fact that the Catholic Herald has offered their help to all candidates regardless of whether or not their positions fall in line with Catholic teaching by publishing their political advertisements, tells me that the Catholic Herald does not care whether or not Catholic values are upheld. It also tells me that the Catholic Herald doesn’t care whether or not Catholics are informed of their duty to vote based on the values of the Catholic Church, but rather, that the Catholic Herald is concerned about making the most money that it possibly can. Publishing an advertisement for an anti-life politician feels like blood money to me!

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24

Just who is it that the Catholic Herald chooses to serve, God or mammon? You can't have both! From the placement of this advertisement in your periodical it seems to me that the Catholic Herald is more concerned with the almighty dollar than it is with the Almighty Father! How very un-Catholic! I can just picture Jesus turning over the desks and computers at the Catholic Herald in a rage over the fact that this periodical doesn't care whether or not it's readers are led astray from Catholic teaching so long as they can keep their heads above water financially. Didn't Jesus tell us that our Heavenly Father knows what we need, and as long as we put our faith first, all of our needs will be met?

"Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or "What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:31-33

As Catholics, aren't we all called to sacrifice for our faith? It is a huge financial sacrifice for my husband and I to send our children to Catholic Schools so that they may be educated in the faith, but we feel that we are best serving God by doing without some of the nicer things in life so that our children may someday enter into the heavenly kingdom. How is it that the Catholic Herald cannot make the financial sacrifice of doing without political advertising that is contrary to Catholic teaching so that it's readers may someday enter into the heavenly kingdom? I fear that the Russ Feingold ad sends mixed messages about living our faith to vulnerable Catholics who may not clearly understand church teaching about pro-life issues. In today's issue of the National Catholic Register, Cindy Wooden from CNS quotes Pope Benedict during his recent visit to Brazil as saying: “Dear brother bishops, to defend life we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world’s way of thinking.”

You say that you will evaluate your decision to run political ads in the future. I pray that a deep love for the Lord and His teachings will prevail in your heart and your future decision will be to eliminate ALL political advertising since there is not and never has been, one political candidate who upholds all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Herald should focus on educating Catholics on the true faith of the Church as upheld by Pope Benedict XVI instead of advertising for the current political candidates.

In Christ, Anne Bender

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King

"If anyone loves me, he will hold to my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him." Jn 14:23

...and I do believe that the Father loves me and my family so very much. Every time I look at a crucifix or a picture of Jesus with His open, gaping wound, that hollow place in His side just seems to cry out to me begging me to enter into His Most Sacred Heart and to place all of my love within it. I know that it is here where I will always be at home, and will always be loved by the Father, as well as the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But I want to live that love in a more complete way, and every wife and mother is somehow incomplete unless her family is by her side, joining her in the deepest love for our Savior. So, although Jesus has always been the King of our hearts and home, last night we prayerfully declared that fact with a special Mass and Enthronement ceremony. With the help of my good friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, we enthroned our home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and consecrated ourselves to His Sacred Heart, as well.

When I had told my sisters that Paul and the children and I were going to have a Mass and Consecration in our home, their love and excitement for us could not be contained and they asked to join in the celebration. I am so grateful for their presence because they made the joyous occasion complete. I know that the devil did all he could to try to dissuade us from following through on our plans; he threw lots of kinks into the works, such as a three hour drive to and from a funeral on the day of the consecration in the most blustery 60 mph winds, he caused my husband and I to argue more than usual and he brought immeasurable worry, stress and frustration to our household in the weeks leading up to this special night. But in the last hour before our guests were to arrive, I walked into the fierce autumn winds that were blowing through the yard to pick the last of the mum-daisies from our garden to decorate the house, and I couldn't help but smile and think "God wins! He always wins! And nothing will stop us now!"

And truly nothing did! Our celebration of Mass and Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was absolutely beautiful! With Holy Water sprinkled on the pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that are now Enthroned in our home, and Holy Water sprinkled on each and every one of us as well, I feel more blessed than I have ever felt in my entire life! After Mass, Bob, my brother-in-law, popped open a bottle of champagne. This was without a doubt a most joyous occasion to celebrate! As my sisters were leaving at the end of the night, Diann, my oldest sister, mentioned that she had goosebumps the entire evening long, and Paul, who wasn't 100% sure that this would be a good idea when I first mentioned it to him, thanked me for working to make the Consecration possible. What greater blessing could I ever ask for?

And now, it is our responsibility to live that Consecration each and every day of our lives. We are to share the love of our Lord and King that overflows from His Most Sacred Heart with everyone we meet, both inside our home as well as in the world around us. With His help, I know we will succeed!

If you are interested in Enthroning the Sacred Heart of Jesus as King of your home, please visit the Apostleship of Prayer website to order leaflet #825. And please, pay a special visit to Fr. Jim's blog, Offer It Up, where he gives a fascinating history on the Enthronement and Consecration.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Across the Street

I watch as the children gather
near to each other in the front yard
wrapping arms around necks
in efforts to offer comfort;
this public display of sorrow
is so unusual for the deeply
private family and I watch
and my heart breaks, too
from across the street

feeling much discomfort
wanting to offer solace as well
but knowing it is not my place,
not yet anyway,
I silently pray for her soul
from across the street

neighbors who are really strangers
to one another
watching from across the street
that might as well have been
an ocean divide;
their blinds closed tight,
keeping out the neighbors,
holding others at a distance
and soon, we forget to care
forget that they are even there

a few friendly waves now and then
maybe we scowl at the loose dog
that got in our yard
or they chastise our children
for tossing the ball
towards their newly purchased car;
years pass and we never cross over
into true friendship
but remain content
to watch each others lives
from across the street

but in the end
what does it matter?
a life is over too soon,
only fifty-four the papers say
and the family grieves
while the wind and rain
blow the memories of her spirit
around our hearts;
and the arms of loved ones
that comfort the family in their loss
represent those of the angels
that are now comforting
a woman after her years
of cancerous pain

and the widower returns
to his garage every morning
where he and his dog
listen to the radio
while the fire burns in the stove
and now his heart breaks in silence
and our prayers rise to heaven
as we consider sending a card
and a casserole
yet it seems too little, too late
and we continue to fear
reaching out
from across the street

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. For my neighbor, Becky, and my sister's mother-in-law, Dolores, may their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dear Anonymous

My dear and wonderful friend Katherine, whose idea it was that I should write this blog, has a marvelous blog herself (Inside Out). She is a fabulous photographer and scrap-booker (is that the right term?) and I always enjoy reading her posts as they leave me with a smile on my face. Today her post really tugged at my heart, not so much because of the post, but because of the comment left by Anonymous. I simply must respond!

Dear Anonymous,

you are not alone. My husband had a 1985 Chevy Cavalier(looked just like the car above only blue) that he simply could not part with. The trusty car had 200,000 miles on it, and it ran great, but the body! It was rusty everywhere! The driver's door would no longer close tightly, and sometimes when I was driving and would turn the corner, the door would fly open! Thank God for seat belts or I would have fallen out! To solve that little inconvenience, my husband installed a hook and eye inside the door so it would stay shut while driving. The passenger door would not open or shut. If we wanted to prevent people from stealing the car, we had to lock the hook and eye and crawl out the hatch in back! When the people at my new job saw me doing that in a dress and laughed at me, my pride had enough. The car had to go!

One day, after my husband sold the car, he came home from work terribly excited! He found his car parked about a mile away at a local apartment building! The new owner lived nearby! It was like old times! Every day he would slowly drive past that apartment building parking lot, just so that he could look at the car and reminisce about the good old days!

Please do not feel that your sorrow over the loss of your Honda is unusual or uncalled for. Please know that you have company in your misery. I hope that some day you will find your Honda parked in a nearby lot and you can visit it every day!

Your friends, Anne and Paul

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crow on the Cross

There he proudly sits, beak in the air
right at the peak of the cross,
as if he can smell sin, pain, death;
he knows what this instrument is used for
and he wants to be the first to see it happen,
wants to call out death with a single "caw!"

But he's too late!
The deed has been done,
the blood of my redemption
has been washed from the cross,
the tomb stands empty.
His Spirit soars beyond the crows!

Let him wait,
wait for eternity
he will never find what he is
looking for; sin is no more.
We have been set free!
Love is all that remains.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Artist

She solemnly sits for the artist,
a bit embarrassed to be the center
of attention as she prefers to remain
silent, in the background.

He paints a picture with his words
weaving and flowing,
but the colors surrounding
his brush with beauty
fail to capture the essence
of the one who held The Word.

Yet he knows that for
generations to come
the woman will be honored
regardless of his talent or skill;
for her greatness cannot be contained
in the written word or in the work of art.

She will transcend all that man
can do to describe her,
for she can only be felt in the heart
that is open to her love,
in the spirit that is
longing for her companionship,
and in the child who is
in need of a Mother.

Thank you St. Luke for bringing our Mother's love into our hearts with your artistry of words, and thank you for journeying through this year with me as my own personal companion and patron saint!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bearing the Wounds

Ever since the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th, a quote has been running through my mind; it comes from my dear friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, and is in regards to the stigmata which marked the body of St. Francis.

"All of us are called to bear in our bodies the wounds of Christ. They may be wrinkles of parents who worry about their children, or bodies worn out from laboring to support our families. The marks of love, visible or invisible, should be there in those who bear the name Christian and who witness through their love to the love of God."

And then, this week, one of my favorite blogs, Just A Minute ran a beautifully heartfelt story about the illness of a loved one. It moved me deeply and exemplified Fr. Jim's quote so perfectly. I encourage you to visit Jenny's blog and read and reflect upon her lovely words in "He Suffers."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Heroes! Ordination 2010

This short yet powerful video highlights the very best of the 2010 ordinations to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. You will be moved! Keep an eye out for my heroes, my spiritual director and friend, Fr. Don Hying, Deacon Christopher Klusman (incensing Archbishop Listecki), you can read more about his fabulous and fascinating story here, Fr. Matthew Widder, the youngest of the ordained priests and sponsor for my son John's confirmation this year-(his picture is the last one at the end of the video,) Fr. Carl Last, the priest that married Paul and I and he also baptized our first three sons, (kissing the altar towards the end of the video-he is by himself,) Bishop William Callahan who is deeply missed in Milwaukee as he has journeyed on to Bishop of La Crosse, WI, and finally, if you look very closely around 26 seconds into the video, towards the back on the right hand side, you will see my son, John, and his friend, Jerry praying in the seminary chapel.

2010 Ordinations-click here to view

Please keep all of these newly ordained priests in your prayers as well as the thirty-six men who are currently enrolled in St. Francis de Sales Seminary this year, and those who are discerning a call to the priesthood, because after all, every man who hears and answers the call to the priesthood is a hero to many, sacrificing his life for the good of God's people everywhere.

Guest Post-God Be With Me

My daughter Mary likes to play pretend. She likes to pretend that she is me as her fingers tap away at the keyboard, mind swirling around words of prayer. Thing is, she doesn't have to pretend to be someone else like this weak and weary mother, she is a gloriously prayerful poet in her own nine-year-old right. She recently tapped out this prayer and with her permission, I share it here.

God Be With Me

God in the rays of the sun, be with me.
God in the clouds of the heavens, be with me.
God in the hours of the day, be with me.
God in the waves of the water, be with me.
God in the light of the stars and moon, be with me.
God in the mists of the silence, be with me.
God in the stillness of my prayer, be with me.
God in the love of your heart, be with me.
God in the darkness of the night, be with me.
God in the playfulness of the day, be with me.

God be with me in every hour, every minute, every second of the day. I don't want to feel alone. You are my soul, my power, and my strength, but most of all, you are my life. I love you, oh my sweet, beautiful, loving God. I will love you each hour, each minute, and each second of today and of the days to come because you are with me always.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Papists vs. the Anglicans

I am not a football fan; professional football, anyway. I cannot stand to waste a Sunday afternoon watching grossly over-paid men whose behavior off-field is often extremely juvenile, play a game. More than this, those players are often worshiped as if they were God, a most recent example being Brett Favre who was a hero in Wisconsin until he left the Green Bay Packers for the Minnesota Vikings. Now our new favorite past-time is to criticize him and scorn him. Even the Catholic Press fawns all over these sports celebrities and praises them simply because they are Catholic football players, regardless of how they fail to live their Catholic life.
Equally bothersome to me, after the game is over and I try to watch the nightly news to catch up on the local happenings, the first twenty minutes are filled with coverage of that game that I refused to watch, as if nothing else in the world happened that day but a football game. I'm sure that a lot of my strong feelings have to do with the fact that I grew up in a house where we were not allowed to speak during the Green Bay Packer game, and couldn't speak even if we wanted to because the volume was always turned up to full blast while the green and gold tromped all over the field. And now, I live in a house where men are the majority and once again, Sunday afternoons are filled with a blaring loud football game on the television, so I usually choose to leave the house and spend some time at a Holy Hour, or out in the backyard with a book. My husband often teases me about my lack of love for the game. He says, "I suppose the only way you will watch a football game is if it is between the priests and the seminarians!" Well now, yesterday, he got his wish!

It was a lovely, warm, Sunday afternoon, and the smell of incense from the thurible next to the stands hung heavy in the air. According to St. Francis de Sales Assistant Vocations Director, Fr. Peter Berger, "With regard to the incense, the Episcopalian minister incensed the Nashotah House team prior to the game (clearly it didn't work :)" Every now and then the breeze brought a whiff of the heavenly perfume past the fans whose cheers roared from the stands as the football fans supported their respective teams in the third annual flag football game between the Seminarians of St. Francis de Sales (known as the Shoremen) and the Seminarians of Nashotah House Episcopal Seminary (known as the Black Monks.) The announcer called out the match between the Catholics and the Protestants that was met with groans from the crowd, so it was replaced with the match between the Papists and the Anglicans. The coveted St. Lawrence Cup went to the Shoremen with a 32-19 victory! After the game, both teams united in faith to celebrate Vespers together.

I was curious to find out the meanings behind the team names, and although all of my searches have come up empty for the Shoremen, I am left to speculate that they chose this name because their lovely Seminary sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and it is from this location that they are trained to be fishers of men. With a little snooping around, I was able to discover this fascinating tale about the Black Monks...

There is a legend that states that the Nashotah House Seminary is haunted. Apparently, before the building was an Episcopal Seminary, it was a Monastery and there is a legend that one of the Monks killed another Monk, perhaps over a woman, but made it look like a suicide. Since suicide is a mortal sin, his body was buried in a cornfield instead of in the Consecrated Cemetery grounds. Twenty years later, when the murderous monk confessed to his crime, the grave of the murdered monk was exhumed but found empty. Apparently the "Black Monk" Ghost is often found roaming the scenic grounds and buildings at the Seminary, and everyone steps aside to let him pass. This legend is how the name "Black Monks" came about.

I'm such a skeptic about the paranormal, especially because I tend to think it goes against Catholic teaching, so I was surprised to find this post this morning at Badger Catholic which lead me to this excerpt about ghosts by Peter Kreeft from his book "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven, but Never Dreamed of Asking."

And now that I have veered off about as far from football as I can get, it must be clear to you, dear reader, that my attention span for sports is truly very short!

The Funniest Thing I Have Ever Seen

This neglectful blogger was tagged by NC Sue (who always seems to have the most clever and interesting posts), for a new kind of MEME in which the person tagged is to post the most funny thing they have ever seen. Apparently I don't laugh much, or I am so absent-minded that I laugh and then forget all about it, because it feels as if it has taken me forever to find something that would compare with the hilarious clip from the Carol Burnett Show that Sue has shared back on September 24th.

Well, finally, today is the day! H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra at the Deacon's Bench, this great little Sesame Street video had me laughing out loud, so I gladly share it in the hopes that it will leave many others laughing in the aisles or at the computer desk, wherever you happen to be.

And in case you have missed the joke, here is the link to the original television commercial that is spoofed by the Sesame Street spot.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

She Leads the Way

At the end of October, my family and I will be enthroning the Sacred Heart of Jesus as King of our home, and consecrating ourselves to His Most Sacred Heart. My good friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the head of the National Apostleship of Prayer which promotes devotion to the Sacred Heart, will be coming to our house to say Mass and to lead the Enthronement and Consecration ceremony. I thought that since this will be such a special and solemn occasion, I should be spending the month preparing by attending prayerful events and by praying to the Sacred Heart of Jesus each day, asking Him to enter into the hearts of my family and I and to draw us ever more deeply into love with Him.

Last Thursday, on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, my son Jack and I attended a special Mass and outdoor candlelight procession with the recitation of the rosary to honor our Mother. As we were re-entering the church after the procession, one of the doors would not stay open on it's own, so, since Jack and I were near the front of the line, we stood at the door to hold it open as everyone in the procession stepped into the church. At the end of the procession, my dear friend, Fr. Don Hying, the priest who said the Mass and processed with our Lord was walking past us and I couldn't help but notice how his eyes were fixed on Jesus in the Monstrance which was directly in front of his face.

How wonderful it must be for a priest to hold our Lord directly in front of himself for a full twenty minutes! It's no wonder that Fr. Don's face always seems to have a glow about it when I consider that he spends so much time looking directly at Jesus up close! And the fact that he doesn't trip and fall when he is walking in the dark over cracks in the sidewalk, down curbs and steps, and around corners while his eyes are constantly fixed on Jesus, is truly a miracle in itself!

My sweet and tender Jesus, how beautifully you care for us when we are spending time adoring you! You see to it that no danger will ever befall us as long as we keep our eyes fixed on you!


Today my sister Diann, and my niece Jenny and I renewed our consecration to Jesus through Mary via St. Louis de Montfort. Upon arriving at the church, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw that Fr. Don had pulled up right behind me. I was blessed to spend a few minutes in confession with him, and then attend a lovely Saturday morning Mass. The music director at the parish where the Consecration Conference was held chose all Marian music for the Mass and had asked one of the parish cantors to sing "Panis Angelicus" for an after communion meditation. It was breathtaking, and a rare occurrence for a daily Mass!

Just before the consecration, everyone gathered in front of the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Hearts to pray the rosary. Although this is the third year that I have attended this conference, it was the first time that I noticed that in the shrine, Mary is holding a heart blazing with fire. This was significant to me in light of my family's upcoming consecration to the Sacred Heart. I couldn't help but feel that my most beautiful Mother is truly leading me to her Son and His Most Sacred Heart. It is only fitting that today I consecrated myself to Jesus though Her, and later this month, I will be consecrating myself to His Sacred Heart. She really does always lead us to Him, if only we will let Her.

Mary, My Most Beautiful Mother, thank you for always leading us to Jesus and for giving His Most Sacred Heart to us so that the fire of His love will burn within us forever!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sometimes I Cry

He's very emotional
and given to bouts of tears;
when they begin to fall
his ability to express
his sorrow in words disappears.
All he can say is
"Sometimes I cry for no reason."

He needs to be held and loved
and to know that he is not alone.
With my arms around him
his weeping turns to sobs;
I hold his heaving body close,
absorbing his hurt through my skin
and into my heart.

He needs something,
some One to cling to
when his heart is aching
and he feels lost and scared.

I turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and implore Him to make room
for this little child
who hurts so much.

I know His Heart will
take him in
for I have entered
into His love myself
in my own neediness and worry;
my longing for assurance
that I'm alright, that I will survive.

The beauty he will find there
is the warmth and peace
that is only found in
His Most Sacred Heart
open, bleeding, vulnerable;
so blessedly vulnerable.

And the thorns that circle His Heart
do not poke and jab;
they have burned away
in the fire of His love.

And the insecurity
that reduces him to tears
no longer wracks his fragile body;
it, too, burns away in the fire of His love.

Guest Post on the Papal Visit in the UK

My young English friend, John H., the founder of "A Vocation to be a Priest" has gathered his thoughts about the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Great Britain and kindly shares them here...

During and after the visit of Pope Benedict to Britain, I am so proud to be a Catholic, but especially an English Catholic! There has been a Christian presence in these isles for 1500 years and our land has probably produced more saints and martyrs than any other country on earth. At long last I know what Blessed John Henry Newman understood when he wrote "I am a link in a chain".

Pope Benedict made a State visit to the UK rather than a pastoral visit - that means he was invited by Queen Elizabeth and Her Government. While I was only able to be physically present at one event (Hyde Park in London), I followed every single event on BBC TV which was truly outstanding. The warmth of welcome by the Queen was commented by all, and the Holy Father managed to win many hearts and souls by his humility and warmth and by his message. He addressed many political leaders in Westminster Hall (including four former Prime Ministers) and told them to be aware of rampant secularism which denies the voice of the Church and the Gospel in the affairs of State. This was especially significant because Westminster Hall was the place where St Thomas More was tried for putting his conscience before Government.

Talking about secularism - it was a washout - a total and abject failure. The protests against the Holy Father amounted to a pathetic 5000. At the same time 240,000 people lined the streets of London to greet him, wave flags, while 80,000 joined the Vigil in Hyde Park. This was outstanding - in the middle of a great and huge city, there was total silence as we adored Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Even the skeptical secular press was won round, who had predicted that the Papal visit would be a disaster, with nobody turning out.

The Holy Father had a punishing schedule, which included a visit to a retirement home, and a meeting with victims of clerical abuse. But for me, he won the hearts of everyone in his interaction with young people - they simply loved him! He told us that we were created for love and that is where we should seek our vocation.

It is reported by our Bishops that the visit was highly successful - the Pope has encouraged us, but he has been amazed at the vibrancy of Catholics in the UK.

You may know that we have a special link to the USA - the miracle from Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman was via a Deacon in Boston.

As our Bishops have indicated - we now need to think about keeping alive the momentum of the Papal visit.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Faith-Filled Weekend

Whew! This past weekend flew by like a 747! But it's all good, because God was definitely in every minute of that flight.

I had the chance to spend the day with my four sons and a few friends on Saturday. It was the annual "Fire on the Hill St. John Bosco Youth Day" rally at Holy Hill Basilica in Hubertus, WI. This faith-filled day of music and speakers for teens set our hearts on fire, blazing like the bonfire that warmed us up in the 40 degree weather. But nothing could warm us like time spent confessing our sins and spending an hour in Eucharistic Adoration followed by Mass with Fr. Stan Fortuna.

In his homily, Fr. Stan was explaining how we can better understand what God's will is for us in this world. He said that the only way that we can hope to understand how God is working in our lives is to "turn it around." Instead of hoping to UNDERSTAND, we should be trying to STAND UNDER. Then he lifted the crucifix from the altar and held it over his head to show us that we are to stand under the cross, like Mary, and it is there where we will find God and realize how we are called to serve Him in this world.

Sunday afternoon, my family and I stood along a busy highway holding "Abortion Kills Children" signs for our local Life Chain in honor of Respect Life Sunday. Nine-year-old Mary kept us entertained by making up pro-life songs with lyrics like "You can stop abortion, yes you can!"

As the weather continues to be chilly in my part of the world, I was glad to sit down for a cup of coffee after that with a young girl who is preparing for her Confirmation this Spring and who has asked me to be her Sponsor. What a joy and an honor it is to be considered worthy to form the faith of someone who is serious about her relationship with the Lord!

Finally, St. Augustine parish is within walking distance of my home and they held a Transitus Service last night in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. I had never heard of Transitus before, so I was intrigued to learn more. My daughter, Mary, and I walked over and were pleased to take part in a solemn service in honor of this great saint! Mary noticed that the service began a lot like the Easter Vigil, in darkness. After Archbishop Listecki gave his homily, the pastor of the parish read the story of the passing of St. Francis from this life to the next while the altar candles were extinguished, one by one, leaving only one flame burning to represent the light of Christ that St. Francis reflected in this world. Then, from that one candle, every candle in church was lit. It was both beautiful and joyous!

And now, I am glad to land again on a normal Monday at work so that I can catch my breath from all of last weekend's excitement!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cortlands, Gingersnaps and Dad

It's that wonderful time of year again when trees burn with oranges, reds and yellows, the air has a brisk feel to it and apples are back in season! Today as I pushed my grocery cart to the produce aisle, I was delighted to find those red jewels, Cortland apples, just waiting for me! I was reminded of a post I wrote last year about that crunchy treat, so as I was munching on my apple on the drive home, I decided to repost it. How funny that when I found last year's post, it was dated October 1st. I must be more of a creature of habit than I realize!

I just returned from the grocery store where I was delighted to find the autumnal treat of crisp, sweet and juicy Cortland apples. To me, Cortland apples are not just a healthy treat, they are a memory of love. They were my dad's favorite apple. Just before he became too ill to go out walking, my children and I took him to an apple farm. There we picked several bushels of Cortland apples. My dad, who was usually very quiet even when he was pleased, thanked me for the outing and wondered how in the world I had ever found that out-of- the-way apple orchard. When he became home-bound, I would bring him bags of those Cortlands from the grocery store and set a shiny apple and a knife in front of him at the table and just watch him delight in peeling and quartering his favorite apple. Tonight, when I found those apples in the store, I was overcome with nostalgia and love for my dad who has passed away over three years ago. I couldn't wait until I got home to eat one, and peel and cut it like he did. Instead, I immediately bit into it and enjoyed memories of my dad with every bite, all the way home. Recalling the memories of those apples led me to remember another food that was a favorite of my dad's, gingersnap cookies, which is also a food that feels like autumn...



These are the traditional joys
of gingersnap cookies.
But to me, gingersnaps offer so much more
than these sensory attributes.

Gingersnaps are a memory of love.
They remind me of my Dad
who loved gingersnaps more than any other cookie.

That rich molasses flavor
hooked him
and he was in love.
There was nothing he enjoyed better
than dunking them in his coffee.

When he was feeling generous
he would buy a bag or two
for my family and I to enjoy.

When I was feeling generous
I would spend an afternoon
baking them from scratch
for him to enjoy.

When my children were small,
their favorite job
was rolling the balls of gingersnap dough
in the dish of sugar
and flattening them with the bottom of a glass.

Whenever I see gingersnaps in the store
or even better
smell gingersnaps
baking in the oven
I am immediately
transported back to another time,
a time when I could share love
with my dad
through a gingersnap cookie.