Friday, July 29, 2011

Look To Him

I woke up feeling moody and grouchy this morning, both tired and discouraged immediately upon arising before I even began my day. I didn't have the energy to fight off the ugliness and I was quickly caving into gloom.

I lector at daily Mass three days each week and today was one of them. As I approach the ambo I usually whisper a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking Him to speak through me and allow everyone present in church to be moved by the words of scripture as I proclaim them. But today I only muttered a half-hearted prayer to Jesus as I bowed to His presence in the tabernacle asking, "Please, help me get through this."

The readings were so beautiful on this Feast of St. Martha and despite my lack of fervor in prayer, I quickly felt the love of the Lord through the words I was reading. Who couldn't feel His love when reading 1 John 4:7-16, this beautiful passage about the love of God? But although I could sense His love, I was still distracted by my emotions and I lost my place which resulted in me reading verse eight twice: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." My mistake brought about the heat of an embarrassed blush quickly rising in my face.

By the time I came to the psalm, however, my embarrassment proved to be unfounded, for there I was reading my favorite scripture passage from Psalm 34: "Look to Him, that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame."

God's timing is amazing, is it not? Despite my negativity and my half-hearted attempt to proclaim His word, He would not allow me to forget His great love for me and maybe it was His doing after all, that caused me to repeat verse eight today. I think He had a message in that passage that He wanted to drive home to me; He wanted me to know that in my contrariness I was failing to love, failing to look to Him and know Him.

Through His amazing providence and His perfect love, all shame and embarrassment is cast out, all moodiness, fear and hate are gone. I will always look to Him and know that

God is love!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


She stands outside the tomb of death
crushed by loneliness
and desire; selfishly
clinging to a memory.

He speaks-
"Touch me not.
I have not yet ascended
to my Father."

And in a mixture of
loving anguish and joy
she backs away
and watches Him
as He leaves her side.

How can she begin to fathom
that her patient waiting-
her surrender to His plan-
will result in unimaginable
joy for not only herself
but for all?

Without fully understanding
His words, the saint accepts them
and lets go of her loved One.
She surrenders to His divine will,
bravely sets aside her grief
and embraces a greater love
for the common good.

She lets go...
and He ascends.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Same Mass-Deeper Meaning

The following is an educational piece that I wrote for our parish newsletter about the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal...

Same Mass-Deeper Meaning
The Roman Missal Third Edition

When the new church year begins this coming Advent the Universal Church will notice some significant changes to the words we pray at Mass. The revision of the Roman Missal from which all of the Mass prayers are taken has been a long time in coming as is true of all changes occurring within the church. In fact, the revised Missal was first announced during the jubilee year of 2000 by Pope John Paul II and the work of translation from Latin to modern languages began in 2002. Based upon information from the Roman Missal Formational Materials provided by the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2010, this third edition of the Roman Missal “contains prayers for the celebration of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions, and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.” This new edition of the Roman Missal is not the first time that the Missal has gone through adaptations; in fact, it has been adjusted numerous times through the centuries to meet the particular needs of the Church at differing times in history.

In the very earliest years of Church history, there weren’t any books of prayer to follow, but collections of prayers were gradually brought together and assembled into a singular format called a sacramentary. Yet, even these books of prayer were not complete and differed according to their use; that is, whether they were meant for a monastery or were used at a local church.

According to the 2010 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “the first true liturgical books which would be called “missals” were found in monasteries beginning around the 12th or 13th centuries. A missale contained not only prayers but the biblical readings, the chants, and the rubrics for the celebration of Mass.” Then, in 1570 at the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V called for a uniform Missale Romanum that was required to be used throughout the Latin Church.

The current translation of the Missal was a process which involved several groups including the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) whose work required final approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican. “The purpose for the new translation was to bring the Universal Mass to more closely align with the traditional Latin translation while restoring biblical and poetic images. The long-term goal of the new translation is to foster a deeper awareness and appreciation of the mysteries being celebrated at the Mass. The axiom lex orandi, lex credendi—“what we pray is what we believe”—suggests that there is a direct relationship between the content of our prayers and the substance of our faith.” (USCCB website)

While most of the words of prayer that will change during the Mass involve the prayers of the celebrating priest, the faithful participants at Mass will notice some obvious changes in their prayers as well, including changes to the liturgical music that is used. For example, in the Introductory Rites when the priest says “The Lord be with you,” the response of the people will change from “And also with you,” to “And with your spirit.”

At the time when the changes in wording will take place, the USCCB will distribute cards to all churches to assist the congregation with the revised responses. It is hoped that these cards will only be needed for a short time as the new translation will become second nature to those who attend Mass each Sunday.

Change can be challenging, it’s true, but it can also be rejuvenating, calling us all to participate more fully in the Mass, to truly take the words we pray to heart, and to use this time to embrace the Catholic faith and the liturgy that we all love. When we fully participate in the Mass by embracing the changes to the Roman Missal, we will be uniting our hearts to the heart of Christ who, as we all know, underwent painfully dramatic change for our benefit. What a beautiful opportunity we have to show our gratitude for God’s love by gracefully accepting these changes to the liturgy and doing our best to make the Mass an act of love each and every time we attend and celebrate the greatest prayer of the Church, the Holy Mass.

To learn more about the Roman Missal Third Edition and to see the specific changes that will occur, please visit the USCCB’s website at:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Love Never Fails

(Photo credit: Rick Wood, JS Online)

It was the most beautiful experience of my life and I will never be the same for having been present at the ordination of Fr. Don Hying to the episcopacy, and really, I have never been the same since God blessed my life with the friendship of this holy man four years ago. I just couldn't believe that Fr. Don had actually invited my husband and I, such ordinary nobodies, to his Ordination Mass, a ticketed event to which he was only allowed to invite 120 people of his own choosing. On this extraordinary day, Wednesday, July 20th, 2011, ninety-five degree heat with humidity could not keep eighteen bishops and 900 priests, religious and lay faithful from attending the Ordination Mass for Bishop Donald Joseph Hying. To see my holy friend enter the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee as a humble and beloved priest and in that place become transformed into a revered bishop is an honor that I will never forget!

The Ordination Mass was absolutely gorgeous and being there was the most memorable gift I have ever been given. Throughout the two hour Mass, I was overcome by my emotions and was wiping away tears of joy again and again, and looking around at the faces of the others at Mass, I could see that I was not the only one smiling through the tears. But the most beautiful smile of all was the one that was on the face of Bishop Hying as he joyfully accepted his new role in the Church.

(Photo credit: Rick Wood, JS Online)

I will forever cherish the sight and sounds of Bishop Hying lying prostrate before the altar as the entire church chanted the Litany of the Saints. His microphone was turned on and his breathing could be heard over the voices of the choir and congregation. The loud rhythm of what seemed to be his breath moving in and out of his lungs sounded like the thumping of a heartbeat and I couldn't help but think that it must have been the very heartbeat of God that I was hearing united with that of a man who is so very in love with God and His Church. I was keenly aware of God's presence at that moment and knew that He is deeply in love with Bishop Hying and is overjoyed with his appointment to the episcopacy, after all, it was His will that brought this to fruition.

I was deeply moved to see Bishop Hying kneeling before Archbishop Listecki while two deacons stood beside him holding the book of the Gospels over his head, to see Archbishop Listecki pour the Oil of Chrism into his hair and finally to see the Archbishop crown him with his golden mitre. At that moment, I looked over to my husband and saw him just grinning with joy and in fact, everyone in church was grinning at the sight of our beautiful new bishop in his mitre with his crozier and his ring, which had been a gift to him from Archbishop Dolan.

That ring, which I had the great honor to kiss at the reception following Mass, was an image of the crucifix with Mary and St. John standing at the foot of the cross. To think that the simple and wonderful act of kissing Bishop Hying's ring could have the power to shave some time off from the purgation that will be my due after death just astounds me! How I love being Catholic!

At the end of the day as dusk was falling and Paul and I were leaving the celebratory dinner at the seminary, the darkness was punctuated by the flickering of thousands of fireflies dancing in joyous celebration along the seminary's tree lined drive and in the surrounding fields. Even nature rejoices at the glories of God and his love for us, especially on this day when His love was shown in the lifting up of a kind and holy soul to the position of Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

For his episcopal motto, Bishop Hying chose "Love Never Fails" and I know that God's unfailing love is clearly evident in the life of Bishop Hying. I join in with the voices of exultation in the Archdiocese, the voices in human form, heavenly form, and those of the elements of nature, in praising God for this precious gift of the loving friendship, and what is sure to be the inspired leadership, of Bishop Donald Joseph Hying.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Poetry from Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, SP

Words of Fr. Fitzgerald, SP that move my soul...

St. Margaret Mary

There were so many thorns
about his brow,
so many red lips
to prove the reality
of His love,
so little fertility
in the soil of
His creature's affections,
so much of Winter everywhere:
need we be surprised that
when the Gardener
found a rose
fragrant with remembrance
He should lift it
to His Heart?

~Paths from Bethlehem


The lesson of the snowdrops is this: Listen, for I am going to let them speak to you.

Dear little one, you love us, do you not? And why do you love us? Because you see that we are sweet and fair; and we are sweet and white and fair because we have lifted our white heads up and hold them up bravely above the damp clay of Mother Earth's dark breast. Do you want to be loved, too? Do you want God and His Blessed Mother and His angels and saints to look on your soul and smile with pleasure upon it? You do; of course you do. Then you have only to imitate us. Lift your soul off the earth; lift it up, bravely, calmly. Do not let its fragrant petals drag in the soil; do not let selfish hands pluck you. Be not afraid that you will be crushed under foot. A Divine Gardener watches with jealous love over your growth, refreshing you with the gentle dew of His Heart's Blood, while he warms the Golden Mantle of His grace. It is true that we are on earth, but our souls are made to be lifted up, up from the earth to God. If you lift your soul up to God, He will use your life even as he has used ours; only yours in a nobler manner, to bring happiness to other lives and the fragrance of God's Love and the sweetness of God's beauty into the cloistered garden of a Christian home.

~Letters of Father Page

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Have Peace

disquiet overcomes
and irritation prevails
the pangs of pride
control me
taking over my peace

and He calls to me
bids me to come to Him
and I am drawn
to Eucharistic Adoration
falling on my knees before Him

praying for the peace
that comes from humility
I empty my soul
of all that torments
and release it to His love

arriving home
I see a rainbow in the clouds
His colorful covenant
of love for this unworthy
prideful creature

He called to me
He emptied me
He loves me

In the midst of my ugly pride
He gives me a rainbow of love
and I have peace
I have peace

Monday, July 11, 2011

All-Love, loving

I've been reading a wonderful book, A Prophet for the Priesthood: A Spiritual Biography of Fr. Gerald M.C. Fitzgerald by Fr. John Hardon, SJ. It's beyond amazing to read a book by one great and holy priest about another great and holy priest who devoted his life to praying for and helping all priests, but especially for those who struggled in their vocation. In today's world when we hear of one priest after another falling from grace, it's so hopeful to know that this isn't something new and that there is someone who cared enough to build a lasting religious order to combat the temptations and trials that beset the priesthood.

Fr. Fitzgerald was the founder of the Society of the Paraclete for priests and the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, an order of contemplative nuns who devote their lives to supporting and praying for priests. He worked tirelessly to promote Eucharistic Adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I found the following quote to be particularly poignant:

"Even if you had the happiest of human homes, even if you had the great sense of security, the love of the finest earthly husband and children, it would only be for a few years...The shadow of the cross lies over every life. It can't be otherwise because only by the cross can we be redeemed. And the cross is terribly hard unless we love the Corpus on it. The Blessed Sacrament is for us the Corpus on the Cross.

It is for us Mother and Father, and brother and sister, and Bridegroom and Bride. It's All. Here is all the tenderness of the Eternal Father. Here is the source of that little mysterious throbbing of your heart which means that you are living.

O Lord Jesus, like a child who only knows that the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus, teach us that which is the supreme wisdom of all the Catholic philosophies. St. Augustine was a lover. That is the secret of sanctity, to be a lover of God. Here in the Blessed Sacrament is everything. Here is All-Love, loving."

And this quote about desiring good will is very moving:

"Beg God to give you a good will. We recognize it in others, do we not? We are lost, we get nowhere unless there is good will. That is all that God has blessed on earth, is it not? He made that careful distinction and had His angels express it at the moment when heaven was radiant in its own generosity, when the night was filled with the music of the angel choirs. And what was it that they are proclaiming? Not peace on earth to everyone but only peace on earth to men of good will."

To learn more about Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, a priest of very good will, visit the Handmaids of the Precious Blood.

Praise for Women Writers

This week's Pay it Forward post is a tribute to two local women writers, both of whom I have long admired...

Milwaukee is blessed with the talents of two women who share their faith in the written word; both write blogs, both write for the Catholic Herald and both write for many other Catholic publications as well. I am continually inspired by the writing abilities of these women, and secretly jealous of all of their accomplishments, although I'm sure that if I confessed this fact to them, they would both humbly deny the need for my jealousy!

Marge Fenelon is a member of the Schoenstatt Movement and her writing is clearly blessed by her deep and abiding faith in the Mother Thrice Admirable. Her website, Marge Mix, is a continual source of wisdom in the faith. While visiting her website, be sure to check out her clever "Why Daisies" page and don't forget to shop for her wise and witty books as well! You can read my review of When's God Gonna Show Up? here.

Karen Mahoney is a freelance writer for the Catholic Herald and her stories are always some of the best-written features around! Her blog, Write 2 the Point, is a great place to find all of her previous Catholic Herald stories as well as to catch up on the events of her life.

Join Holly at A Life Size Catholic and Pay it Forward to your favorite blogs!

Another Holy Man

He's decided to come to Mass with me every day this summer; quite a feat for a fifteen year old boy who would much rather sleep in than rise at 6 AM in the barely there light of morning while his siblings remain sleeping. He wouldn't come with me if it were just about the Mass, I know; he comes because I take him with me to the YMCA immediately following Mass. He's working on building his physical strength this summer and I'm amazed to see him becoming quite muscular at a rapid pace. His faithfulness to exercise is reaping immediate rewards, but I know that his faithfulness at prayer is reaping even greater spiritual rewards, although he's not quite ready to admit that.

What I most enjoy about my time with my son at daily Mass other than the overwhelming realization that he towers over me in height (I barely come up to his shoulders) is that I notice subtle signs of his ever softening heart. Joe is tough and doesn't want anyone thinking that he isn't. But I see the signs and I know that God has got his hand firmly upon his soul, gradually leading him into a deep faith. After his daily complaint about having to sit in the front because his mother is the lector, he asks me to hand him my blue Pieta prayer book which is always in my purse. It is his daily habit to pray to St. Joseph, his patron saint, from the prayer in that book. When Mass begins, he fully and respectfully participates but after Mass is sure to complain about the length of Father's homily, regardless of how short it actually was, as he races for the door so as not to miss out on any of his workout time.

The conversation in the car is usually filled with questions, the signs of a boy searching for meaning in the faith in which he is being raised. He's sure to remind me that it is difficult to be the son of a Jesus freak. When wondering about my work history, I told him the story about how miserable I was when I worked in food service management before I was married. I had applied for a new job in clinical nutrition and promised God that I would attend daily Mass if He could please see to it that the part-time job I wanted could be mine. When God came through on His end of the deal, I was sure to follow through on mine and I began to attend daily Mass on my off-days.

Joe's mouth hung open in astonishment at this fact. "You mean you were a Jesus freak even before you were married? And Dad married you anyway?" I answered, "Joe, I was raised to be a Jesus freak, I've been one my whole life. And so are you. Your faith will be with you forever, guiding you in your decisions, nurturing you in your sorrows, strengthening you in your trials, and enhancing your joys as long as you don't let anything come between you and God." And the boy who loves to argue and win, was blissfully silent as he absorbed this fact, and I offered a silent prayer that God would always keep his hand firmly in place on my son's soul and never allow him to power lift his way out of a deep and abiding relationship with his heavenly Father.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of Holy Ground, Holy Hours and Holy Men

"But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.” from Matthew 13:1-23

After hearing the above Gospel reading at Mass, my son Joe questioned me: "Mom, what kind of soil are you?" We all want to be the rich soil, don't we, because we know that it's the "right" kind of soil, the one that will yield the most holiness in our hearts. But sadly, somehow, I don't think I'm there yet, and maybe I need more composting in my heart to enrich my soil. I had to honestly answer that question by saying that right now in the present moment the garden of my life is growing in the rocky soil, for I am always quick to hear the word of God and impulsively and joyfully accept it and believe that now I will finally live as a loving and faithful child of God, that my faith is rich and deep and strong. But along comes a storm or two, and maybe a drought in between, and before you know it, I'm withered and complaining, barely hanging on to my faith. I need some type of continual sustenance to change my rocky soil into the rich and fertile holy ground of deep and lasting faith.

Yet it wasn't too long after I answered that question when I felt the sweet consolations of God despite the sweltering heat of summer and felt that maybe through the prayers offered today at Roses for Our Lady's monthly Holy Hour for vocations at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, that my soil was perhaps becoming just a little richer and more prosperous. The chapel was filled with over sixty people praying fervently for an increase in vocations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We were blessed with the presence of newly ordained Fr. Kevin McManaman and his parents, too! I could feel the love of God permeating throughout the chapel, pouring out from His presence in the Holy Eucharist and filling the air with the joy of both answered prayer and prayers yet to be answered.

In the Holy Ground of the Seminary the soil is always rich and moist with prayer and I felt in my heart that God was drawing the roots of those prayers deep into the earth where they would be strengthened and sustained and result in the sweet fruit of many holy and happy vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Holy ground, fertilized by holy hours of prayer, resulting in holy men. How rich!!!

What kind of soil are you?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saint Mary Magdalene

(Magdalene by Antonio Veneziano from Magnifacat Magazine)

Her feast day rapidly approaches; my favorite saint, Mary Magdalene, with her jar of alabaster whom we honor on July 22nd, and I have found the most lovely poem written in her honor. Today I snuck away to one of my favorite places, the Salzmann Library at St. Francis de Sales Seminary where three treasures were waiting for me to indulge my spiritual avarice-three books written by or about Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, the holy founder of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, a cloistered order who devote themselves to praying for priests. Fr. Fitzgerald wrote poetry and had it published under the pseudonym of A. Page, CSC, and it was in his book titled Paths from Bethlehem where I found this delicious poem:

To Saint Mary Magdalene

You claimed
the false
until you found
the True;
your beauty
until Beauty
wounded you,
and plunged your soul
into a spring so sweet
your tears
fell as chaste pearls
at Mercy's

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I find myself steeped in sin
and long to be made clean
so I hike over to the local
church and get in line

there are six before me, and soon
there are eight behind me;
I am a sinner in the midst of sin

the line moves slowly for
sin isn't washed away
with a swipe of the cloth
it takes a bit of scrubbing, and
scrubbing takes time

a rosary and a divine mercy chaplet
and it's my turn in the box
I offer my sins wrapped in
sorrow and contrition
and receive advice and penance in return

and then it comes-
the prayer that has the power
to thrill me every time
I hear it-

"God the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit."

and with those beautiful words
that sound remarkably like
God saying "I love you"
I am renewed, refreshed and redeemed
and can walk upright on
the return journey to the rest of my life

Friday, July 1, 2011

Forgotten at the Altar

This morning I arrived at church for 7 AM daily Mass, expectant with the joy of celebrating the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By ten after seven, it was evident that the priest who had been scheduled for Mass would not be arriving. What would we do without Sister Doris who efficiently led all seventy daily Mass attendees in a communion service? By the end of the service, she was just about in tears, telling us how upset she was that there was no Mass on such a holy and special Solemnity.

After the service, I thanked her for leading the communion service, no one else would have known what to do! Then I told her that her obvious love and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus touched me deeply and I shared with her the story of how I came to be especially devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I told her about how I was praying the Sacred Heart Novena last year in anticipation of the Solemnity. On the second day of the of the Novena I had visited my favorite place, the shores of Lake Michigan to spend time in my favorite activity, searching for sea glass. Just as I was getting ready to leave, I spotted a red piece of glass which is extremely rare. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the sea glass was shaped like a heart with a gash in the side. What a beautiful sign of love from God!!! Fr. Don (Bishop Hying) blessed it for me and I wear my sea glass heart on a chain around my neck nearly every day. When I showed it to Sister Doris, we were both in tears, realizing the great and endless love that Jesus has for each and every one of us.

I am so grateful that I will have the opportunity to attend Eucharistic Adoration today to pray for all priests on this World Day of Prayer for Priests and for the opportunity to attend Mass tonight at the home of friends who have a monthly Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayer Group with confession, rosary and Mass in their lovely home chapel. I will be praying that Jesus will never again be forgotten at the altar. Won't you join me in my prayer intention?

Jesus, lover of our souls, You long for us to love You and to never forget You, especially at the altar! I am so sorry, my sweet Jesus, for all of the neglect that is shown towards You, especially on this very occasion devoted to your most Sacred Heart! I ask your pardon for our cold hearts and beg you to light the fire of Your love within us all, but especially within the hearts of Your priests whose charge it is to lead so many others to You. Let my love for You be large enough to soften the great hurt You must feel when others forget and ignore You. Amen.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in thee!!!