Friday, April 29, 2011

The End Times

"That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane...It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." ~REM

"Be not afraid." Pope John Paul II

I grew up in a family that was intently focused on the END OF THE WORLD. We knew all about the THREE DAYS OF DARKNESS and were convinced that it would happen in our lifetime. My parents were well prepared with blessed candles, a wood-burning stove and an amply stocked pantry. Even today, a family get-together can rarely be enjoyed without someone commenting matter-of-factly that these are THE END TIMES. Although my childhood was colored with this fear, and believe me, I have had many nightmares about the end of the world, overall my early years were happy and something in me resists believing in a God of wrath and punishment, but instead, favors a God of gentle love and kindness.

I used to think that my family was the only one who believed in an angry God for I had never heard of the THREE DAYS OF DARKNESS from anyone else, even the most holy of people. Then, shortly after 9-11, I went to the public school for a conference with one of the teachers, a sweet young girl who taught first grade. As soon as I walked into her classroom, she confided her fear to me that she was sure that this great tragedy was the beginning sign for the THREE DAYS OF DARKNESS. I was amazed to learn that my family wasn't the only one who believed in the chastisement.

I've tried to sway my family to my point of view, to help them understand that God does not want to chastise the whole world, but rather, He wants to embrace the whole world. I've argued, pleaded and prayed with them. We've even had a visit from a wise and wonderful priest who worked his way step by step through the erroneous prophecies in an effort to release the bondage of fear that tightly holds my family. But, despite my best efforts to convince my relatives that they should put aside worry and fear and focus on the love of God, I have not had any success and they cling to their beliefs like a blanket of gloom, and I am sure that they are not alone as my visit with that first grade teacher, as well as many comments that I have heard from other good and religious people, have confirmed.

We can look to the disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes and feel that it is just punishment from God for our sins. Surely for those who are in the midst of it, it is the end of the world, but is it just punishment or simply natural elements? What about all the good and holy people who suffer from these disasters? Are they being punished for their sins or do they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I look at the history of the world and see that natural disasters and plagues have always occurred and individuals have always suffered through illnesses and the deaths of loved ones. Governments have always been corrupt and the poor have always struggled. Cancer is a fact of life for many people, innocent children die for no apparent reason, chronic disease plagues many. War has brought about its own horrific plights.

Through all of this pain and suffering, we can choose to dwell on the negative and live in fear, or we can choose to accept the fragility of a human life that includes a generous dose of misery and cling to a God of life and love who is with us through it all, crying tears of sadness right beside us in our grief. And that same God is waiting; waiting for the day when our earthly passage will end and we will be united with Him in eternal joy where death will be no more.

We are meant to suffer here on earth, not because of the just judgment of God for our sins, but because we are meant for something more glorious than what this world contains. These are the end times for each and every one of us individually, not collectively. We can worry and live in fear, or we can embrace the suffering of our own crosses, loving and supporting one another through it all and thereby prepare ourselves for our own individual meeting with our Maker when the time comes for our own personal end of the world. Over two thousand years ago a great prophet, St. John the Baptist, told us to "prepare the way of the Lord." His words still ring true today. We must be prepared for the end of the world, for the second coming of Christ, but that preparation shouldn't leave us trembling in fear, but instead, we should be rejoicing in the greatness of God and his triumphant mercy and love for us all, sinners, each and every one.

Oh God of love and gentleness, stay near to us in our suffering and trials. Hold us close. Cry with us. Steady us in our anguish. And when these days of sorrow are over, hold us even closer in Your eternal glory. Amen.

For more on the Three Days of Darkness visit the notable blogger Jimmy Akin.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book of Blessings

When Paul and I stood with our children before Fr. Dennis Witz asking him to bless us on our twentieth anniversary, he opened the Book of Blessings and spoke these beautiful words:

Lord, increase and consecrate the love which Paul and Anne have for one another. The wedding rings they once exchanged are the sign of their fidelity. May they continue to prosper in the grace of the sacrament.

In the tender plan of his providence, God our almighty Father has given married love, its faithfulness, and its fruitfulness, a special significance in the history of salvation. Let us therefore call upon him, saying:

Father all-holy, the faithful one, you ask for and respond to fidelity to your covenant; fill with your blessings your servants who are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.

You live in eternity with the Son and the Holy Spirit in oneness of life and communion of love; grant that these your servants will be mindful of the covenant of love they pledged to each other through the sacrament of marriage and never fail in fidelity.

In your providence you have ordained that all genuinely human experiences should become ways of leading the faithful to share in the mystery of Christ; grant to your servants serenity in good times and bad and the will to stay close to Christ and to live for him alone.

It is your will that married life should be a lesson in Christian living; grant that all husbands and wives may be witnesses to the wonders of your Son's love.

O God, the life of the family is founded on the plan of your own providence. In your mercy receive the prayers of your servants. Grant that by imitating the Holy Family they may reach the joys of your home and together praise you for ever.

Lord God and Creator, we bless and praise your name. In the beginning you made man and woman, so that they might enter a communion of life and love. You likewise blessed the union of Paul with Anne so that they might reflect the union of Christ with his Church: look with kindness on them today. Amid the joys and struggles of their life you have preserved the union between them; renew their marriage covenant, increase your love in them, and strengthen their bond of peace, so that surrounded by their children they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And we are abundantly blessed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fragrant Spirit

"For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."
(2 Corinthians 2:15)

Archbishop Listecki leaned over each jar of Chrism, sweetened with the earthy fragrance of balsam, breathed in deeply and then released his breath into the fragrant mixture of oil and perfume thereby calling the Holy Spirit to enter into the Chrism making it holy.

John and I, seated in the front of the church, were finally able to see the actions at the Chrism Mass for the first time after many years of only finding seats in the back of the crowded Cathedral. We were so close that I could actually smell the sweet perfume. Every sense in my body was intensely aware of the holiness of the moment, and I fondly recalled the year that I had the great honor of carrying the Chrism home from the Cathedral for my parish. I couldn't sleep that whole night because the scent of the oil in the box on my dresser kept me awake with excitement over the awesome thought of having those holy oils in my own house until the morning when I must reluctantly deliver them to the director of liturgy at my parish.

I looked at my son sitting next to me, my son who will be receiving that consecrated Chrism smeared firmly onto his forehead by Bishop Sklba at his Confirmation this Saturday. It will be rubbed so thoroughly and deeply into his skin that it will penetrate through his pores and soak into his soul, forever penetrating his very essence with the Holy Spirit breathed into that oil by Archbishop Listecki. In that moment I saw, not a fine young man on the cusp of full and joyful acceptance into the Catholic faith, but instead, a little baby dressed in a white baptismal garment, nestled in my arms as I breathed deeply and was overcome with that fragrant scent with which he was covered for the first time, that aroma that lingered on his sweet brow for days. How quickly that time has passed from the moment when Paul and I brought our innocent first babe to church for the Sacrament of Baptism and professed our willingness to bring him up in the faith, until now, the moment when John will profess his own desire to remain in the faith and live his entire life in the Spirit of the One and Only loving God.

And how fitting it is that my son, born on October 16th, the date that Pope John Paul II was elected Pope, and christened "John Paul" will now be Confirmed into the faith on the eve of that same Pope's beatification. John has declined to choose a new name for himself as he is confirmed and has chosen instead to reaffirm the name chosen for him in honor of that good and holy man for whom he was named.

I pray that on April 30th, when the Holy Spirit descends through the crowded church and penetrates the foreheads of each of the youth being confirmed in their faith, that all will be moved to embrace an active Catholicism-one of faith, hope and love-through both prayer and action , for the remainder of their lives.

And might I just send a nod John's way and invite you to pay a visit to his own blog, Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call, for his own take on the excitement he feels over his upcoming Confirmation and his experiences during the Triduum just past?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Two and Twenty

On April 28th I will be celebrating two years since my fingers began dancing across the keyboard releasing my inner Jeremiah; my heart and soul on fire for Christ. I began with this post about my experience at St. Francis de Sales Seminary's Open House followed by time spent serving food at the St. Vincent de Paul meal program for the poor.

But this week also marks a far more important milestone--April 27th is the twentieth anniversary of the day that my entire being began its dance of heart and soul devoted to my spouse. This is the week of anniversaries, the week for celebration, the week to dance!

To mark this very special occasion, Fr. Dennis, the associate pastor at St. Matthias, will be blessing Paul and I discreetly after Mass as we don't care to be the center of attention, and then we will live as if we were in France-dinner at a quaint French Cafe followed by the French movie "Of Gods and Men" which I have been wanting to see for the longest time and am so grateful to be able to finally squeak it in during its final week in Milwaukee.

But I want to celebrate with you as well, my faithful readers, so, although I personally am a wall-flower who prefers to let others do the dancing while I sit and watch, I thought that the following repost would be a very fitting way to celebrate the occasion, as in my heart I am always dancing with God, my husband, and with you, my dear friends and followers!

Dancing Shoes

If I were to wear my dancing shoes,
would you dance with me?

Will your footsteps lead me
in the way I should go?

Will you hold my hand firmly
assuring me of your friendship?

Will you look into my eyes
instilling a sense of confidence into my soul?

Will you place your hand gently upon my back
to strengthen me when I’m feeling weak?

Will you let me spin when the tempo quickens
and I’m feeling joyful?

And when the music ends,
will you slowly release me
as I continue the dance in my heart,
while stepping into the dance of eternity?

If I were to wear my dancing shoes,
would you dance with me?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

God Wins!

“God has made me laugh; every one who hears will laugh with me” (Gen 21:6).

Before he became Pope, Joseph Ratzinger quoted these words, spoken by Sarah when she was told she would conceive and bear a child, as he shared the custom of Risus Paschalis-The Easter Laugh. Risus Paschalis is a custom from the Baroque period when the Easter homily always contained a joke to make people laugh so the entire church would ring with joy. He said,“On Easter, we imagine Jesus' laughter of redemption. We who share an Easter faith can say, like Sarah, 'God has made me laugh.'”

For the past three years our parish had the great honor of hosting Bishop William Callahan as presider at our Easter Vigil, so this year the Vigil Mass, although beautiful in every way, felt just a bit lonelier without him, as Bishop Callahan is now Bishop of La Crosse, WI and is no longer able to join us.

But every time I think back to the first year that he had joined us, I just have to smile, remembering his homily about the Easter Laugh. It was the year that I was sponsoring my friend Amanda as she joined the Catholic Church through the RCIA Program. For me, everything about that particular Easter Vigil was electric with excitement and joy. I sat in the first row with Amanda on one side and my daughter, who was six at the time, on the other side, and during his homily, Bishop Callahan stood right in front of us with his hand on the edge of the pew as if the entire homily was meant for us alone, and he spoke of Risus Paschalis, the Easter Laugh.

And at this year's Easter Vigil, in fact, even before we left the house, the Easter Laugh kept bubbling up inside of me. My daughter, always the helpful nine year old, wanted me to practice my reading with her. (I lector at my parish and tonight I read the haunting words of Ezekial (36:16-17a, 18-28.) Although thankfully, I didn't blunder during Mass, I couldn't get through practicing it with Mary with a straight face. Just knowing that she was watching me made me burst into laughter, and when she joined in the laughter, the two of us were out of control with happiness.

At the vigil, sitting in the dark around the altar, I noticed the associate pastor practically dancing in his chair during the toe-tapping "Horse and Chariot", (Exodus 14:15-15:1) and that put a smile on my face that would not disappear for the remainder of the evening. Sitting next to the lead lector who had the responsibility of making the announcement to the pastor, "Reverend Father, tonight I bring you great news. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead." I just had to whisper to her, "That is so great!" as if it were the first time I had ever heard that news.

My son Jack's best friend and his brother and parents were all received into the Catholic Church at the Vigil, and the sight of an entire family giving themselves to God deepened my smile with the emotion of pride. Later, as I was sitting in the pew with my family once again, I was overjoyed to see that my daughter and youngest son noticed every single detail of the Mass including the joy of every person present, and Mary whispered that she never wants to miss a single Easter Vigil for the rest of her life, and all of this made me laugh.

After the Vigil, during the celebration welcoming our newest members of the Church, I was joined by one of my dearest and long-time friends, Katherine. The first thing she said to me was "You look happy." I realized that after four long years of leaning on the strength of God to beat back the devil of depression, I could clearly say that with God, I have won; yes, I am happy!

Bishop Callahan had said that there is nothing the devil despises more than the laughter and joy of God's people, it sends him running fast and far! On Easter we celebrate the fact that there is no despair, no loss, no death that the love and glory of God cannot overcome. In God we have life everlasting. The devil always loses and God wins! And I want to be on His side forever, singing a song of freedom! God has won the victory! Hallelujah!

"We are the Easter people, and hallelujah is our song!" Pope John Paul II

Friday, April 22, 2011

In His Image

(Pictured: Archbishop Listecki at Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee on Friday April 15th.)

I'm not entirely certain that my Lenten resolution to devote all of my prayer, fasting and almsgiving to the pro-life cause bore much noticeable fruit or saved any lives, but I have to say that this year for the first time in a long time, I stuck to my Lenten resolves better than any previous year, so maybe this was a sign from God that He would help me be true to my sacrifice if the cause was worthy enough. On this solemn and holy day where we see the source of all life suffer and die for our lowly humanity I take a look back at my pro-life efforts this Lent and share some wonderful links that moved me and kept the fires of sacrifice stirring in my soul...

My heart was quickly moved to make my Lenten resolutions on behalf of so many innocent lives lost when I received Fr. Don's email about his experience at the abortion mill. I knew that I could no longer sit back and let others act on behalf of the innocents; I knew that I, too, must take a more active stand.

Despite my best efforts to put together a group from my parish to participate in 40 Days for Life, it was my husband and I and one friend who stood outside the closed abortion mill praying the rosary on a chilly Saturday evening early in Lent. At my next visit to pray at the abortuary, there were only two others praying there. Despite the fact that Dan Miller, who tirelessly works for life and organized Milwaukee's 40 Days for Life campaign this Lent sends out daily emails that led me to believe that no matter when I went to the clinic, I would find a crowd of people praying, my own experience had proved this to be a lonely experience.

I was blessed to help promote and attend a pro-life spaghetti dinner which raised funds for the Women's Care Center which helps women to keep their babies and it was here where I finally met Dan Miller, who I now place near the top of my personal heroes list. For forty days with only a few off, this man stood at the foot of the cross, loving and praying for those affected by abortion-the babies, mothers, and abortion mill employees-with the goal of shutting down the abortion mill. He had great success with 28 lives saved!

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, my heart was moved and lifted by this beautiful video which I found on Beth's blog, Credo Catholic.

And it was Beth, again, who linked to this heart-wrenching pro-life story on an AMAZING blog- Barefoot and Pregnant-What a Woman in Crisis Really Needs. It's a must read for inspiration and like the above video, it has spread like wildfire around the blogosphere! I highly recommend that you take the time to read Calah's personal story.

Throughout these forty days of Lent, I continued to write about how the pro-life cause was moving me and how I was able to live my beliefs though my work at the WIC Clinic. All of my Lenten efforts, all of my daily living and all of the inspiration I received through personal encounters with others who work for the pro-life cause and through the world of the blogs, have become my own way of the cross this Lent, climaxing in my presence at the foot of the cross on Good Friday morning.

Every Good Friday for the past few years my family and I attended Lauds at our parish and then spent the remainder of the morning gathering all of the donated food that was placed around the altar during Holy Thursday Mass and taking it down to our parish food pantry. This year, I broke that family tradition and together with my sons, John and Joe, I went to Pro-Life Wisconsin's Stations of the Cross. The weather was perfectly fitting for Good Friday-cloudy, damp and cold with intermittent showers, which made the journey to the abortion mill feel truly sacrificial.

After praying the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and the stations of the cross inside the church, the group of about 100 people walked the six blocks to the abortion mill while chanting the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It was clear that the abortion workers (known as death-scorts by Dan Miller) were ready for us, all standing outside in their orange vests, one of them videotaping us as we arrived. As Dan led us all in praying the joyful mysteries of the Rosary, my sons and I kept our eyes on the door to the abortion mill-Hell with Doors, according to Dan. The death-scorts were smirking and denying the reality of God. Someone called out to a couple as they were walking into the clinic, asking them to turn around and take the help that was offered at the Women's Support Center which was just across the street, which was promptly and sadly greeted with the "finger sign" by the young woman entering the abortuary.

At 11:00 AM, when the rosary was over, my sons and I had to leave to attend and help at the Good Friday Service at our parish, so we weren't able to walk back with the pro-life group with which we arrived, but I felt that our time there was well-spent, standing at the foot of the cross with the babies who were suffering their own crucifixion, standing among the death-scorts who mocked and jeered like the Roman soldiers, and standing with others who love the Lord and long to serve Him by standing up for the sacredness of life, all of which is made in His image.

I learned a lot this Lent. I learned that sacrifice is most beneficial when it is used toward a greater and specific good. I learned that I am more brave than I had ever believed myself to be. I learned that although pro-life efforts can seem lonely and difficult, we are never alone in the good that we do and we can stand up to the most obscene words and gestures with the gentle power of prayer. And, perhaps most important of all, I learned that life does not need the protection of prayer and personal witness during the forty days of Lent alone, but that pro-life efforts are always in need and I will continue to put forth the best I have to offer long after the Easter season is ended and into forever, until abortion is a long-forgotten memory on the face of this earth.


addendum: I just received the following email from Dan Miller and was amazed to read about what happened after my sons and I left "Hell's Doors" yesterday. Prayer is SO powerful and God is SO good!

Day 45 – 4/22/2011 – Miracle on Farwell

Dear 40 Days for Life supporters,

Warning! Are you sitting down?! You need to sit down before you read this. Today at approximately 11:15am, the abortion mill lost all its power. As amazing as that is, that’s not even the part you need to sit down for.

More than 100 people showed up today for Pro-Life Wisconsin’s Stations of the Cross. We can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us in prayer and public witness on this most Holy Day, Good Friday. When we arrived at ‘Hell with Doors’ around 10:30am, we started in right away with the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. We had already prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries at St. Rita’s, so we thought we would mix it up a bit down at the mill. Juggling a Rosary, a bullhorn and the pro-life reflections was not easy, so I fixed my eyes on another vigiler’s Rosary to keep count, wishing I had a third hand. When we were done with the Rosary, another vigiler felt compelled to recite a prayer honoring the Face of Jesus. Within this beautiful oration was an exorcism prayer. As I was no longer on the bullhorn, I was free to float around when suddenly I noticed that the police were in the area. They were not there for crowd control –they were directing traffic because the traffic signals were completely out. I checked the neon sign in the window of ‘Hell with Doors’, and sure enough, it was out as well. Clients started streaming OUT of the mill in a pretty steady flow. When I was able to sneak a peek inside I could see all the lights were out inside the abortion mill! I don’t know about you, but if I were any of the women inside that place, I would not be sticking around for an abortion by candlelight. As the women streamed out, we said, “This is a sign from God that you should keep your baby! God has a plan for your baby! Go home! Love your baby! Have a wonderful Easter!” One young mom smiled and nodded in agreement with our statement! The ‘deathscorts’ were very busy doing damage control, scoffing at our divine implications.

Ok, ok, ok. I guess the Doubting Thomases out there may still find it hard to see the hand of God at work here, but here’s the part that may convince even the Doubting Thomases and the part you should be sitting down for. Every building, street light, traffic signal on Farwell, as far as the eye could see, was without power, save one, whose lights were burning brightly amidst the darkness. That building was the Women’s Care Center.

Behold the mighty hand of God.

See you out there.

Through Christ,

Dan Miller

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Celebrating the Strangest Things by Fr. Don Hying

This week, the strangest thing will occur. Millions of Christians throughout the world will gather to honor the humiliation, torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In a global culture that usually celebrates power, strength and beauty, this public reverence of something so horrific is always a little shocking. Could it be that what so many people find absolutely compelling about the Passion narrative is the vulnerability of God?

In the Christ event, God leaves the safety and glory of heaven, in a sense, and embraces the limitations of our human condition, coming to know, in the flesh, both the glory and the tragedy of our nature without ever sinning. In the last week of his life, Jesus completely hands himself over to us. In the foot washing and the Eucharist, in the scourging and the crucifixion, the Son of God loves us completely, without restrictions, conditions or limits. Whether we accept, reject or ignore this Divine Love, Jesus does not change his stance towards us.

In Roman and Greek mythology, the gods are always scheming to manipulate humanity to serve their often-selfish ends and ego-driven schemes. In Christ, we encounter the startling subversion of this oppressive game. God serves us! In total humility, availability, vulnerability and mercy, God has come to love, forgive and save us. The weakness of the cross, the simplicity of the Eucharist, the shock of the foot washing, the love that seeks to embrace a traitor, a thief and a coward is so far beyond the competition of power politics, the whirl of social hubris and the grasp of worldly striving, that it takes our breath away. No wonder that kings will stand speechless in the presence of the Suffering Servant, as Isaiah proclaims.

If God could become that poor, vulnerable and humble to love me, then how can I ever stand on my self-importance? This week we celebrate the strangest things - weakness becomes strength, love conquers fear, wretched despair gives way to resurrected hope and never-ending death is swallowed up by eternal life - and it’s all because a naked criminal was thrown down on a cross 2000 years ago and he embraced it as if it were his marriage bed.

Fr. Don's post originally appeared on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee website.

picture source: Vatican website/Stations of the Cross

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pity for Judas

Wednesday of Holy Week is known as Spy Wednesday when we remember the betrayal of Jesus by one who had been his disciple and friend. I offer this revised re-post from Spy Wednesday, 2010.

Had Judas given more forethought
to the misery he'd cause
by his selfish kiss of betrayal
would he have taken time to pause?

Would he have run back to the garden
and try to save the Lord
lanced the soldier's ear
like Peter with his sword?

Would he have tried to hide the Lord
safely tucked away
in some small room he'd known about
where he could quietly stay?

Would he have stood faithfully by His side
saying "Crucify me as well!"
unable to leave the one
who was destined to save him from hell?

Poor, poor Judas,
why did you turn awry
and forget to glance upon our Lord
with love and sorrow in your eye?

Why didn't you beg for forgiveness
and admit your evil act,
could you too, have had a chance for peace,
in our Savior's loving pact?

Instead you let despair
hang you from a tree
soul forever lost
name darkened through history.

Poor, poor Judas
I want to learn from you
the lesson we must all accept
and share with others, too.

God will always love us
His mercy never ends
if we but say we're sorry
and work to make amends.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Fourth Station

Yesterday I had a choice. I could stay home and help my family paint the staircase and kitchen walls, partaking in a little spring cleaning and spiffing up of the house for my son's upcoming Confirmation party, or I could sneak away to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist for the Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate of five worthy young men. Well, just try to keep me away from Church, especially when it allows me the opportunity to pray for men who are on the journey to priesthood! I am so grateful that I chose the latter because if I hadn't been there, I would have missed an impromptu resemblance to the Fourth Station of the Cross.

Yesterday's beautiful Ordination Mass saw five fine young men take one step closer on their journey to the cross, the complete and total laying down of their lives for the Lord and His Church. At that Mass, hundreds of people welcomed Yamid Jose Blanco, Juan Manuel Comacho, Brad Alan Krawczyk, Ryan Joseph Preuss, and Hans Flondor of the Conventual Franciscan order, to the transitional diaconate and their final year of study and preparation for the priesthood.

Yamid is originally from Columbia, South America and his family traveled a great distance to be with him on this most special and important date. At the ordination Mass, the mothers of those receiving the Sacrament are asked to carry the gifts to the altar. After presenting the gifts, the mothers each had an opportunity to embrace their sons before once again taking their seats. From my vantage point far in the back of the church, I could sense that something was slightly amiss from the plan, things seemed to be taking longer than they should. As I strained to catch a better look I saw a touching moment of deep holiness that brought tears to my eyes and I'm sure to the eyes of many others who witnessed that scene. Long after all of the other mothers had taken their seats, one remained standing. Yamid's mother lingered, embracing her son while Archbishop Listecki patiently and lovingly looked on.

On Jesus' long and tortuous walk to his death, that same scene played out. Mary, after many years of only seeing her beloved son from a crowded and distant vantage point, who was often denied the close contact with her son to which she was so accustomed from His days of youth, was finally standing right in front of Him. Here at the Fourth Station, she could only embrace Him with her eyes, but oh, how her arms and heart must have ached to physically embrace him, to hold him up if only for a moment, to take some of his pain away. It was her moment of complete misery, to love Him so much but to have no choice other than to let Him go.

And here was Yamid's mother, at last after many years apart, able to reach out and hold her son. She knows that from now on, with each day that draws him closer to the priesthood, she will only see him from a crowded and distant vantage point. But at this moment when she met her son at the altar, her heart bursting with pride and joy and sorrow and love and every possible human emotion that a mother can have for her son, she held him long and close, knowing that beyond this Fourth Station he will be out of her hands and his life will no longer belong to her, but to God alone.

(picture source: The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


face to the ground searching for glass
wanting to bury my head right in that sand

nose in a book searching for God
hiding myself behind the pages

fingers striking the keyboard
writing thoughts with intentionality

how I want to remain hidden
a faceless spirit, a soundless voice
revealing myself
in letters and words alone

alas it cannot be
for I am made to trudge along
in this body- the humble container
for the spirit that longs
to soar beyond facial
expressions and physical

so I will continue on
following His plan
for my life-both in body and spirit
until that glorious day
when I can finally leave the physical
behind to decay in the earth
from which it was made

and my spirit will finally be free
to fly with the angels

Saturday, April 9, 2011

God of Wonders, God of Life

Regular readers will know that I have committed myself to offering all of my Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving to the pro-life cause this year in the hopes that my meager efforts might save a life, and our God of wonders might just have given me that opportunity today.

Last weekend when I busy promoting Roses for Our Lady at the pro-life spaghetti dinner to benefit the Women's Support Center here in Milwaukee, I had the good pleasure of meeting Mary Gilpin, the director of the Women's Support Center. She gave me a stack of her business cards to share with my clients at the WIC Clinic.

When Sharonda came in with her son Demetrius (not their real names, of course!), we had a lovely visit. This was the last time that Demetrius would come to the WIC Clinic for benefits since he would soon be five years old and WIC benefits end at that time. Demetrius was just a pure joy, smiling constantly and playing quietly while Sharonda and I talked about his health and eating habits. As the appointment was ending, I asked Sharonda if she had any other concerns today. She said, "Yes, actually, I do. I might be pregnant."

She went on to tell me that she has five children, Demetrius is her youngest (four sons, one daughter-just like me!) After he was born she had her tubes tied feeling that her time for having more children was over. She has not had a pregnancy test yet because her doctor told her it would be too early to tell for sure, but the worry is that because of her tubal ligation, this pregnancy may be ectopic, a danger to both mom and baby. She is praying that if she truly is pregnant that her baby will be in the uterus where he belongs and thus allow her to happily welcome another little one into her life, expected or not. But, her doctor advises abortion if baby would truly settle in her fallopian tubes.

In looking at WebMD to find out more about ectopic pregnancies I learned:

"Although there have been a few reported cases of women giving birth by cesarean section to live infants that were located outside the uterus, this is extremely rare. The chance of carrying an ectopic pregnancy to full term is so remote, and the risk to the woman so great, that it can never be recommended. It would be ideal if an ectopic pregnancy in the Fallopian tube could be saved by surgery to relocate it into the uterus. This concept has yet to become accepted as a successful procedure."

And with further snooping around the internet I found this story about a miracle baby that did survive an ectopic pregancy. This line left me gaping in amazement-the odds of delivering a full-term baby from an ectopic pregnancy is one million to one.

I asked Sharonda if I could share a resource with her, a place that could give her help, support and guidance regardless of the result of this possible pregnancy, and Sharonda very gratefully took a card for the Women's Resource Center and told me that she will be giving them a call.

Please join me in prayer for Sharonda...

God of wonders, God of life,

hold Sharonda and every expectant mother in your arms with the warm embrace that only Your love can provide. Offer her the reassurance of knowing that the risks and difficulties that come with motherhood are always more than incredibly worth it and that Your love will help her to overcome each and every trial which comes her way. Bring every bud of life growing within your daughters to full fruition. Be with the doctors who assist women in high-risk pregnancies,help them to use any and all medical advances that will save those precious babies whose early lives are at risk. Lord, you know that I am not an expert in medical care and can rarely find the right words to comfort others, but I thank you for the opportunity you gave me to share a pro-life resource with a woman in need. Sharonda and her little one are in Your hands Lord, do with them as You will. I trust in your mercy. I trust in your love.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Having Too Much Fun

"Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush." Doug Larson

In April my thoughts always turn to my dad as this was his birthday month. (Truthfully, my thoughts are frequently turned towards the memory of my dad no matter the month!) One of my favorite childhood memories was watching him sit down at the end of a long day, not at the kitchen table writing out checks to the missions with the polkas blaring as he usually did, but instead, sitting in the living room watching one of his two favorite television shows- All in the Family or Hogan's Heroes. He would never watch anything else. I can just picture him with his hand on the side of his face and tears rolling down his cheeks because he would be laughing so hard at the antics on those shows.

You could say that my dad was ahead of his time as far as sedentary activity was concerned. We were always restricted in our television viewing; we were never allowed to watch it during the day, that time was strictly for work or play and he himself abided by this rule. Today when I am at work, I am forever reminding young parents to limit the amount of time that they allow their children to watch TV and encourage them to provide plenty of opportunities for physical activity instead.

So there I was the other day, living in exact opposition to the advice I give, all cozied up on the sofa in front of the set wrapped in nostalgia as I happened to catch an All in the Family re-run on TV. In this particular episode, Mike and Gloria were expecting their first baby and they had invited Archie and Edith to spend Thanksgiving with them. Everyone was in an uproar (they were always in an uproar on that show) because Mike the "Meathead" atheist was adamant in his refusal to have the baby baptized and Archie was extremely upset about Mike's decision. The "Dingbat" Edith chimed in with a very interesting statement in support of Archie's request that his grandson be raised in the Christian faith. She said, "Children should go to church when they're little because when they're older they are having too much fun to be religious."

Her statement made me think that maybe "Dingbat" wasn't such a bad name for her after all. For even though I am no longer so young myself, I am having more fun now being "religious" than I ever did in the "fun" and reckless days of my youth! I can't fathom anything that is better or more pleasurable than silently kneeling in front of my Eucharistic Lord in adoration, or belting out one of my favorite hymns at Mass, or praising Him with my entire being in the glories of His nature. Watching my children finger their rosary beads as they pray is a great delight. Listening to someone who is hurting share their suffering and knowing that my presence and prayers give them comfort in some way brings me much joy. The sight of my family filling the pew at church is one of the greatest beauties I know. To abandon myself in the pages of a spiritual book brings peace and inspiration beyond my wildest imaginings, and perhaps, best of all, discovering a new friend whose faith is similar to my own gives me a thrill beyond compare!

Sure we have our troubles, our slushy shoes-there's never enough money, the aches and pains in our bodies constantly remind us of our fragile humanity, our sins may be forever before us glaring out for the world to see; but living with those troubles in the light of faith is far more enjoyable than living with those troubles in the darkness of doubt.

"Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother." Kahlil Gibran

So I will embrace my faith and live it to the hilt. I will enjoy every second of this precious life that God has chosen to bless me with and I will never know the pain of loneliness that comes from not being religious. I will retain a childlike spirit and go to church and for me that is fun! Can you hear me whistling with my shoe full of slush? It's spring!!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Opening Our Weakness

Since I am so often inspired, challenged and moved by the words of one of my dearest friends, Fr. Don Hying, the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, I have asked him to become a regular contributor to Imprisoned in my Bones. Because he is a man who always says yes, thereby modeling the generosity of Christ, he will be sharing his wonderful writings here more frequently. He regularly writes a column for the Seminary supporters called "New Heart, New Spirit" and what follows is his most recent edition:

In the Office of Readings for Monday of the Third Week of Lent, Saint Basil the Great writes: “Boasting of God is perfect and complete when we take no pride in our own righteousness but acknowledge that we are utterly lacking in true righteousness and have been made righteous only by faith in Christ.”

Every time I make my commitments for Lent, I know that I am setting myself up for failure! Sooner or later, I am not going to perfectly fulfill my zealous promises on Ash Wednesday to pray, fast and give alms with greater generosity and depth. The penance of Lent seems to open up our weakness on purpose, to encourage us to both embrace a spiritual ideal that is beyond our grasp and to console us when we fail along the way. Wouldn’t it be easier to just set our sights lower, so that we would fall closer to the ground?

In his quote, St. Basil reminds us that we need to radically get in touch with our sinfulness and weakness, to experience the collapse of our self-sufficiency, to feel the pain of our moral failures, to taste the bitterness of plans defeated, so that we can come more fully to faith in Christ as the One who loves, redeems, forgives and clothes in righteousness.

What can be said of Lent can probably be said of seminary formation as well. A man preparing for the priesthood is challenged on so many levels to grow and be formed anew in Christ. The seminary will call him to allow these years of intense preparation to mold and shape his intellect, prayer, manners, morals, sexuality, punctuality, management skills, ability to communicate, emotions and thoughts. This process is a tall order and no one does it perfectly.

Precisely where seminary ideals and human weakness intersect can be found the mercy of God! Knowing both our strengths and weaknesses well, we can thank God for the gifts we have received and humbly rely on Him in our imperfections. God always chooses earthen vessels to accomplish His will in this world. Both Lent and the seminary call us to shoot for the stars, in terms of sanctity, but also remind us that only the grace, mercy and righteousness of Christ can actually carry us to that sacred place Jesus calls the Kingdom of God.

Once we get what Basil is talking about, our life can become a balance of self-acceptance and self-challenge, always striving for a deeper embrace of the devout life, yet knowing that we will continue to sin. Is this steady climb of rising and falling not an extension of Jesus’ journey to Calvary, a place of death, but ultimately the strange and wonderful spot of final victory?