Sunday, June 26, 2011

And When I Die

"And when I die, and when I'm gone, there'll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on." ~Blood, Sweat and Tears

No visit to my hometown would be complete without a visit to my parent's grave site in Evergreen Cemetery. The highlight for my kids is in finding the trees the grow in the middle of the road in the shaded and well-cared for burial grounds. (Who plants a tree in the middle of the road?) The highlight for me is the opportunity to share memories of my parents with my children and to gather around their headstone in family prayer.

Visiting the cemetery always prompts Paul and I to talk about what types of funerals we might like to have when our time comes to pass and how we would like to be remembered. Paul is always sure to make a somber discussion into something joyful by making the family laugh as he talks about his desire for extravagant coffins and huge gravestones with life-size statues beside them. That is so not Paul!

I can never quite understand the need to show off once we're dead; does it really matter that a body without life is surrounded by silk in the finest mahogany casket only to be placed six feet below the ground where it will rapidly decay? I heard about "green" funerals not too long ago and I've decided that I want to be "green" when I'm dead. I tell the kids to bury me in a cardboard box out in the woods somewhere and whenever they miss me, they can just go for a walk in the woods to remember and pray for me.

Paul again, forever the lighthearted one, tells the kids to gather six banana boxes from the Aldi grocery store, line them up side by side, and just put me in there. It sounds strange and makes me laugh to think of it, but actually, it's quite fitting as those sturdy boxes are practically a symbol of my life! You see, my father worked at Weyerhauser Box Factory for many years and he had a fondness for boxes. I swear we had a whole room in our basement that was filled with boxes in which he organized everything from important files to my family's childhood toys. And he always brought his groceries home in a recycled cardboard box instead of a paper or plastic bag. He was "green" long before it was fashionable to be so.

Well, you know the saying, like father, like daughter, or the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, or should I say banana? Banana boxes are my favorite means of carrying home the family groceries from the Aldi Store each week as I always lug four banana boxes from my basement to the store, fill them with nutritious foods and lug them back home. They are useful for so many other carrying jobs as well, that it's not unusual to find me carrying a banana box filled with prayer books, donation baskets and rosaries to a Roses for Our Lady Holy Hour, or setting them out for the Salvation Army Thrift Store Pick Up Truck filled with the families discarded clothing! It makes sense that the boxes that are filled with so many symbols of my life would make a suitable container for my body as it leaves this world.

But as for the funeral Mass on the other hand, that's where my desires do become extravagant. My aunt Monica was the holiest woman I have ever known. She single-handedly and joyfully raised thirteen children and ran a farm by herself after her husband suddenly died when the youngest child was still a baby. She was a lay Carmelite, active in her parish, prayed outside of abortion clinics, and kept a weekly holy hour(her kids would tease her and say "Mom, we think you're just going to a happy hour each week," to which she would reply, "Child, when I'm keeping my holy hour, I am happy!") Monica was a daily Mass attendee and frequent world traveler in her later years. She died while leaving daily Mass on one of her travels. What a beautiful way to go, having just received the Body of Christ in Holy Communion and then immediately enter into eternal communion with the Lord!

At Monica's funeral the church was packed with over 400 people who stayed in the church for nearly three hours to share the stories of her life. There were three priests who officiated and every one of them was crying. It was a beautiful and holy occasion celebrating the life of a beautiful and holy woman.

And that is how I hope to leave this earth as well; lovingly remembered at a large funeral Mass with family, friends and at least three priests who all cry for me, and then bury me in six banana boxes in the woods, preferably near Lake Michigan where my remains will always be near the glistening water and the sparkling sea glass. Then, each time my family misses me, they only need to go for a walk in the woods near the lake and search for sea glass while they pray. My spirit will always be there.

For a Good Death

O most merciful Jesus, I praise and thank Thee for Thy most bitter death, and I beseech Thee, by Thy death and by the breaking of Thy Heart, to grant me a happy death. When my soul leaves my body, may it be immediately delivered from all sin, set free from all debt, and mercifully received into eternal joy. I know, O Lord, that I ask of Thee a very great favour, and a sinner like me ought not to presume to ask it; but it is as easy to Thy goodness to forgive few or many sins. It is not, indeed, our merits, but Thy infinite mercy that procures for us even the least share of heavenly beatitude. In order to be made worthy and fit to receive this favour, grant, O good Lord, that I may now truly and completely die to the world and to myself. From this time forth, may all appear to me worthless that is not Thee. May nothing interest me but Thee alone. For Thy sake may I look on everything with contempt, and may I rejoice when I am despised for Thee. O good Jesus, may I ever be wounded with Thy most pure and fervent love; may all that is not Thee be bitter to me, and may all that is pleasing to Thee become dear to me. Be Thou, my Lord and God, dearer to me than all besides, or rather, be Thou truly all in all to me."
~Dom John of Torralba, Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Sincerity of a Server

I rouse my son from sleep
before the light is full,
fingers brushing the blonde
of his hair, whispering,
"Get up for Mass."
It takes two tries
before he responds.
He quietly dresses
without waking the others.

We race into the rain
and arrive as the rosary begins;
he scrambles to the sacristy
to prepare the altar.

He never fails to bring the
cruets down with a loud click
on the glass table, causing
distraction to those
praying the rosary.

Our voices drone on in prayer
as my son continues
his work of preparation.

As Mass begins,
he stands stoically, holding the
sacramentary in his hands
as Father prays the words within,
and during the readings
he silently watches from his seat
behind the altar.

He smooths out his alb
during Father's homily
as he stifles a yawn.

I watch as he carefully opens
the tabernacle doors to bring
the hosts to the altar.
His work here is holy, blessed
and beautiful.

When Mass is over
the church ladies rush
to hug him, beaming with pride
and gratitude, the earthly reward
for the boy who rises early
on a summer day to
serve the Lord with sincerity.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Get Out of the Boat

On Pentecost Sunday at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, Roses for Our Lady held their monthly Holy Hour for Vocations. This particular Holy Hour was unlike any of the others, for we joyously celebrated and honored out spiritual director, Fr. Donald Hying, the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, who was recently made auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee. In my spoken tribute to him, I shared this quote from one of his scripture reflections that he writes for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald; this one was from Pentecost 2009. This quote is an Imprisoned in my Bones repost from May 2009-the very early days of this blog-but definitely worthy of repeating, and definitely prophetic for Fr. Don who is now truly stepping into the deep and giving his life over to the Holy Spirit in a new and wondrous way.

"When we, like the saints, set the sail of our life to the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves doing things that we could never have imagined, witnessing to Christ in ways that seemed beyond our abilities and engaged in works of evangelization, charity and service that seemed impossible. One thing is certain. When we give our lives over to the Holy Spirit, nothing will ever be safe or dull again. We will find ourselves blown out to the deep water and then Christ will bid us to get out of the boat." Bishop-elect Donald J. Hying

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Isn't Abortion Child Abuse?

Last week Matthew Archbold wrote a post at the National Catholic Register titled: Obama: Kill Babies or I'll Hurt the Poor. In his post, he rightly asks us to watch, pray and write to our legislators over the recent work on the part of the Indiana legislation which passed a bill to defund planned parenthood. The following passage made my stomach turn with the awful truth of his words:

"The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to Indiana threatening to withhold billions in federal Medicaid funding for low-income people if the state doesn’t agree to fund Planned Parenthood. Just think about that for a second. Let the horror sink in. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for it to really wash over you.

Got it? Yeah, the Obama administration is saying the federal government will hurt the poor unless Indiana agrees to fund the killing of babies.

Is Planned Parenthood entitled to taxpayer money? Think about it, the federal government if forcing a state to send taxpayer money to a private entity.

So when someone says to you that the Democrat Party is for helping the poor, make sure you correct them by explaining to them that the Democrat Party is about funding abortion first, even at the expense of the poor."

As someone whose profession it is to help the poor and vulnerable, to not only assist them in coping with the daily challenges of raising healthy children, but also to refer them to other private and government agencies and medical care from which they might benefit, I find the fact that the very money that could be used to help improve their lives would be withheld in favor of abortion to be unconscionable!

In my work at the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Clinic I was recently reviewing the revised policies for Nutritionists. When I came across the following state policy about reporting child abuse I did a double take:

Inflicting serious physical harm on an unborn child, including the risk of serious physical harm caused by the habitual use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree. ( Wis. Stat. § 48.02(1)(am))

In other words, if I, as a nutritionist, suspect or am told by a mother-to-be that she uses drugs or drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, I am to report her to the authorities, which of course, makes complete sense. But, if that same woman would tell me that she aborted her baby so that she could continue a lifestyle rife with drugs and alcohol, there would be no reporting necessary; just a reminder and encouragement to live a healthy lifestyle with some resources to help her do so, a handful of WIC checks for healthy foods and be on your way. I know this question has been asked by many before, but how is abortion not considered to be the most severe form of child abuse? To me, and to many others, I know that the answer to that question is obvious, so why is it that our government doesn't agree and will even strong arm their way to keeping abortion legal with unfair legislation that hurts the poor instead of helping them?

Keeping the hope alive that someday all of the efforts by pro-life groups and agencies will overcome the death culture in American society takes great faith. But push on we must. I am quite grateful that at my own parish, a long overdue pro-life committee is being established and I am proud to be a part of it, bringing right to life issues to the forefront and encouraging others to assist in the battle to end abortion. Little by little, we will overcome the ugly forces of death that keep the killing of innocent lives an acceptable law in our land, and we will see the day when the cold-blooded murder of babies is once again illegal and, please God, non-existent.

Until that glorious day becomes reality, I am grateful to have found the following prayer on Kee's Little Hare blog and I've printed it and posted it at my desk at work and pray it daily. When I am dealing with clients who struggle in their motherhood and feel that ending the life of their child is the only way to cope with their problems, the words of this prayer give me comfort in knowing that we are all in God's hands and every whispered prayer on behalf of women in crisis can go a long way toward helping them to give their child the gift of life and to work to be the best mother they can possibly be.

Prayer to save a child from abortion

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I come to pray for every mother who is today considering the termination of the life of her unborn child. Grant her the courage and grace to persevere, so that the child already living, will be born safely. I pray also that those who support, encourage, promote or perform abortions may be granted a conversion of mind and heart. Finally, I pray for all those who have been hurt by the tragedy of abortion. Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses celebrated throughout the world today, in atonement for our sins, and for all the sins of abortion in the world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world. Amen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Seven Quick Takes-It's Summer!

I'm living easy these days, or at least,I'm trying to. The kids are home for summer break and so I thought a summer quick takes would be in order...

1. When the kids are home and Paul and I are at work, we do quite a bit of communicating through e-mail. It's a great way for me to silently keep tabs on the home life while not interfering with my work. I like to call it e-tattling since that's what the majority of the messages I receive contain. On the first day of summer break, it was my two youngest who were home while the three oldest were finishing up their final exams at school. I received an e-mail with a very interesting question: "Do eyebrows grow back?" Sometimes an e-mail reply won't suffice and a phone call is in order. Let's just say we are grateful that it is summer break and the eyebrowless child won't be fodder for classroom teasing!

2. I had forgotten how beautiful my son Joe's eyes were because for the past year he kept them hidden behind a mop of hair. He took it upon himself to hike on over to the $5.00 haircut shop (not Otto the Barber-but a deal just the same) after his final exam for the year and I didn't recognize him when he walked in the door. It was $5.00 very well spent and the sight of my handsome son with short hair is the best part of my summer so far!

3. So, between shaving eyebrows and fabulous haircuts, I got to wondering about the mystery of hair. Why is it that hair on our extremities quits growing after it reaches a certain length, but the hair on the top of our heads would continue indefinitely unless we lose it? Maybe that's a good summer research topic!

4. My family and I had been struggling with the decision of whether or not to pull our two youngest out of Catholic school next year in favor of tuition-free public schools. I had gone so far as to enroll them at our neighborhood public schools when I learned that the grade school only offers split classes. Being quite biased from my own negative childhood experiences in split classrooms, I decided to quit fighting my husband (who was against the idea of public schools to begin with; and what kind of Catholic mother am I anyway for even considering public schools?) and sacrifice the finances to keep the little ones in the Catholic school. This decision was met with great joy by Jack and Mary and was blessed with a little sign from God in the form of a small scholarship check that arrived in the mail on the very same day the decision was made. God does answer prayer!

5. It's a well known fact that all mothers earnestly pray for the well-being and success of their children and often ask others to pray for their children as well. Now, I've a spiritual son for whom I'd like to ask prayers. John Howard, the brainchild behind the (now-closed) worldwide website A Vocation to be a Priest has completed his high school exams and is off to the seminary to begin preparation for the priesthood. Please keep him and all seminarians and those discerning a call to the priesthood in your prayers!

6. And while you're praying for seminarians and those in discernment, perhaps you'd like to pray for an increase to vocations as well. If you happen to be in the Milwaukee area this weekend, it would be a thrill to meet you at the Holy Hour for Vocations at St. Francis de Sales Seminary (3257 S. Lake Dr.) at 2 PM on Sunday. These monthly holy hours are hosted by Roses for Our Lady and we will be honoring Bishop-elect Hying, our spiritual director, at the social that follows prayer. Stop in and offer a word of congratulations to Milwaukee's newest bishop!

7. I've been devoting all of my spiritual reading to the subject of the Sacred Heart of Jesus this June. I have currently plunged into The Letters of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. I think that the letters written by the saints reveal their true hearts and souls in a far deeper manner than the words written about them in biographies. I was particularly moved by this passage:

"Go on blindly, forget yourself, let Him act in you, for He loves you. If you try to do too much you will only prevent Him from furthering the work of your perfection."

So, dear friends, I plan to enjoy a summer that has a little less hair, a lot more prayer and the quiet peace that comes from letting the Sacred Heart of Jesus work within me. Perhaps, I will also enjoy soaking up a bit more sunshine, since the very kind Holly at A Lifesize Catholic has bestowed a "Sunshine Award" upon me and my blog and shared the following words:

"I’m drawn to Anne and her posts because she makes serious religion engaging. I fear that many are lost to religion because when you start getting past what I teach in 1st grade, it gets a little, uh … shall I say, challenging, demanding, and serious. Somehow, Anne is able to be in the realm of the latter, and still get to people like me—the academically-religiously-challenged—engaged. Her light is a bright beam in my world."

Thanks Holly! I'm feeling significantly warmer from the light in your words! Visit Jennifer for more Quick Takes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Take Courage

One of my favorite gospel passages is that of the interaction between Christ and the hemorrhagic woman who touched his cloak in a crowd. Sensing that some power had escaped from his body, he questions who it is that has touched him and bravely coming into his view, she admits her action. Seeing her great faith he speaks to her: "Daughter take courage; your faith has made you well." (Matthew 9:22)

Take courage
, he says. And this daughter wonders, how exactly does a person take courage? For me, a chronic worrier and perfectionist, one who lives with constant fear and anxiety, nothing sounds more appealing than hearing Christ speak to me and say, "Daughter, take courage." But that courage escapes me, and I am left to shake in my shoes and wonder exactly how it is that I am able to make it through the tasks of each day without crumbling into a million pieces.

The temperature spikes and tempers flare, bills pile up with no end in sight, worries about tomorrow fill my mind and there seems to be no escape, no recourse for my troubles. The consolations of God seem far distant, the comfort offered by friends can't seem to sustain me and although I kneel in prayer fingering the beads, words of prayer don't burst forth from my heart. It's hard to believe that God cares, that he knows the burdens I carry and wants to relieve me of my distress. Spiritual reading tells me how blessed I am to suffer, for in my suffering I assist Christ in His passion and relieve the torment he endures from the sins of many. But still...still...I need relief that doesn't come from reading about the saints. I recognize that I am far from the holiness to which I aspire; I am not yet a saint, and most likely will never become one.

Yet again, in recent days, He speaks those words in Holy Scripture:

"In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." John 16:33

So I kneel down in the pew each day, head bent low, offering Him my fear and weakness, my impatience and short temper and I open my hands to receive His Body and Blood. And it is here, here in the gift of Eucharist, that I receive the courage which carries me through into the unknown of each day. This is it, the answer to my questions, the solution to my worries, His gift to me...I give Him my all, my entire nothingness and in return He gives me His everything from which I draw just enough courage to carry me through until the next time my Lord and I meet in the most intimate connection ever known. I ingest His Body and He innervates my entire being with His courage-producing presence.

And he speaks to me, "Take courage, it is I. Don't be afraid." (Matthew 14:27)

So I go in peace to courageously enter into life in His service for just one more day, each and every day of my life.

The Third Testament-A Guest Post

John Eklund is a first-time author who has written a historical piece of Catholic fiction based on Church history since the time of Christ. According to his website, the book uses real-life locations and Church events fashioned into a fictional story, which especially intrigues me since one of the locations mentioned in the book is the beautiful Devil's Lake State Park which my family loves to visit for camping trips. The Third Testament is widely acclaimed in Catholic circles so when the author proposed the following guest post, I was eager to agree. Please be sure to visit The Third Testament Website for more information as well as for information on ordering the book.

Joining in Holly's Life Size Catholic Pay it Forward Blog MEME, I offer you a guest post by The Third Testament author, John Eklund:

Several years ago my wife Jennifer and I were planning a trip to Germany (a trip we never ended up taking but still hope to). I had recently bought the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz and was looking through the section on Bavaria. I came across the remarkable story of the village of Oberammergau. In the seventeenth century the people of Oberammergau were ravaged by the bubonic plague, the Black Death. Guided by faith, the villagers made a pact with God to perform a Passion Play every ten years for eternity in exchange for a reprieve from the Black Death. They performed the first play at Pentecost in the year 1634, and miraculously no further lives were lost. The passage in Schultz’s book made me say “Hey, that sounds like something that could be in the Bible.” Around that same time I was reading Dan Brown’s infamous novel The Da Vinci Code. In the novel Brown erroneously describes the council of Nicea as the place where the early Church leaders decided what events and writings should be included in the Bible. All of a sudden a light bulb went on in my head. I became deeply intrigued by the question- What modern day events and writings would be worthy of being deemed “biblical.” It was then that I decided to begin writing The Third Testament, a pro-Catholic novel about the history of God’s people dating from the time of the apostles until the present day. I spent the next six years researching and writing about the most fascinating topics in the history of the Church and the world, and I loved every minute of it.

For those interested, here is more information about my book:

Brief Description of The Third Testament:

Guided by a mysterious old friend, forlorn Catholic professor Fred Sankt unlocks the hidden truths of the past two thousand years, and struggles to achieve a heavenly reprieve from the deep and dark troubles that mercilessly haunt him.

Book website:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Forty Years of Love

The sky was as blue as can be without a single cloud, the air was warm and pleasant, filled with the fragrance of flowers; birds were singing, children were playing, and lawnmowers were buzzing. It was a perfect summer day, made even more perfect by the beautiful backyard celebration that occurred in the midst of the typical summer activities.

Diann and Gary, my sister and brother-in-law, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on June 5th, which also happened to have been my deceased parent's wedding anniversary. To celebrate this beautiful event, my niece Jenny, their daughter, invited our entire large family of nine siblings and all of the children and grandchildren to attend a Mass and party in her backyard. Everyone brought flowers and the scenic backyard surrounded by a picket fence under the shade of a large oak tree was simply idyllic. It was a joyous event that brought all of my siblings together for the first time in five years!

The Mass was celebrated by our beloved friend, Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer. Fr. Jim spoke of the gift of marriage as an image of God's love for each of us. He said there are times when the love that spouses share for one another is physical, but more often, that love is something that is felt and known deep in the heart, so that no matter whether or not a husband and wife are physically present with each other or are far apart, the bond of love is never distant, it remains deep within, just as Jesus remains deep within our hearts and souls through the gift of Eucharist. After the Ascension of His physical body, Jesus disappeared into the heavens yet He remains forever united with us, each and every one of us, always present within.

Fr. Jim also brought a beautiful prayer for Diann and Gary to pray together and shared copies with everyone else present...

Prayer of Spouses for Each Other

Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another's weaknesses and grow from each other's strengths. Help us to forgive one another's failings and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self. May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us ever closer to You through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Choose My Plate

It's not often that I blog about something that isn't spiritually related, but I have to share the USDA's new website on dietary guidelines for Americans. It's been a long time since I've gotten excited over something in my professional field of work. The USDA has done away with the confusing "food guide pyramid" and replaced it with "ChooseMyPlate." The website is easy to use, very informative and has a great feature which will analyze your diet and activity levels. There are even some delicious looking recipes in each food group category. Let's face it, the healthier we eat, the better we are able to keep the fires burning for the Lord and to spread the good news to all the earth! (How's that for putting a spiritual twist on the practicality of good nutrition?) Check it out!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

spilled ink

words spoken to the wind
floating high with the gulls
are never to be retrieved
they're gone forever

but words in ink
on those we can linger
holding them in our hands
close to the heart

what does it matter
that changes come
it happens all the time
yesterday cannot be re-lived

but memories are like ink words
permanently fixed in the mind
mulled upon and mused over
until they become who we are

spill the bottle and soak the paper
ink your world
with cherished memories
that remain forever in the heart