Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Secret Trust

I've been asked to speak about the Blessed Mother at my parish this coming March. It's part of a monthly program called Church Chat where "experts" speak about an aspect of the Catholic faith in a question and answer format. When I was first approached to speak about Mary I was so thrilled that there was to be a session about her that I quickly said yes. Of course, unlike the Blessed Mother, my yes's are never really final and peaceful, they always seem to be followed by a great deal of anxiety, and this yes was no exception. I soon found myself panicking over what I should say and the possibility that someone might ask a question that I'm unable to answer, after all, I'm certainly no theologian, I'm just a mom! Besides, I'm most comfortable hiding behind a keyboard, not standing out in the open and speaking to others.

I tried to back out and suggested that they ask someone who really knows what he's talking about and has the ability to inspire, like Bishop Hying. But, everyone knows that the Bishop is terribly busy these days, so my suggestion was downplayed with that excuse and the affirming words that "everyone has great faith in you and is confident that you will do a good job." So, I'm going to speak about Mary this March and you can be sure that I have been praying to her day and night pleading for her assistance and will go on praying to her until that talk is behind me and the people who attend will have gained some new and wonderful insight into the Blessed Mother and why Catholics are so devoted to her.

I'm sure it also helps to read and study all that I can get my hands on about our wonderful Lady, so with that in mind, I recently took my beloved copy of Caryll Houselander's The Reed of God off the bookshelf and have decided to make it an Advent tradition to re-read this enchanting little book each year. Her words, her wisdom, are achingly beautiful and resoundingly true, and the way she sees inside of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the working of the Holy Spirit within her is so inspiring.

Maybe I can just read The Reed of God at the Church Chat session and let Caryll Houselander do all the work! I certainly could use a little of the secret trust that she speaks of in this segment from the chapter Fiat...

"Our Lady was at the most fourteen when the angel came to her; perhaps she was younger. The whole world trembled on the word of a child, on a child's consent. To what was she asked to consent? First of all, to the descent of the Holy Spirit, to surrender her littleness to the Infinite Love, and as a result to become the Mother of Christ. It was so tremendous, yet so passive. She was not asked to do anything herself, but to let something be done to her. She was not asked to renounce anything, but to receive an incredible gift. She was not asked to lead a special kind of life, to retire to the temple and live as a nun, to cultivate suitable virtues or claim special privileges. She was simply to remain in the world, to go forward with her marriage to Joseph, to live the life of an artisan's wife, just what she planned to do when she had no idea that anything out of the ordinary would ever happen to her.

It almost seemed as if God's becoming man and being born of a woman were ordinary. The whole thing was to happen secretly. There was to be no announcement. The psalmists had hymned Christ's coming on harps of gold. The prophets foretold it with burning tongues. But now the loudest telling of His presence on earth was to be the heartbeat within the heartbeat of a child. It was to be a secret and God was so jealous of His secret that He even guarded it at the cost of His bride's seeming dishonor. He allowed Joseph to misjudge her, at least for a time.

This proved that God knew our Lady's trust in Him was absolutely without limit. Everything that He did to her in the future emphasized the same thing. His trust in her trust of Him."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rend the Heavens

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!"
Isaiah 64:1

I've been a lector for the past four years and with a prayer to the Holy Spirit before I approach the ambo to proclaim His word, I usually do just fine. But every once in a while the power of a passage fills my heart and soul and gets stuck in my throat. My nerves are overcome and my voice quakes as if it were the first time I'd ever attempted to read His holy words. Today was such a day. I wanted to stop right at that powerful passage and cry out with Isaiah...

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

A teenage boy leaves home with a pocket full of money
and wanders the streets all weekend
going from house to house looking for shelter
and a hot shower and a warm meal.
Where is the love of his mother?
Invited to participate in Mass, he asks,
"What is Mass?"

Rend the heavens!

A parish struggles under budgetary constraints
brought on by empty pews and empty hearts
and considers letting a priest go,
considers making do with less prayerful leadership,
less lifting up of God in worship,
in favor of more buildings.

Rend the heavens!

Young boys want to start a basketball team
and the priest rightly asks
"Why should I let you use my gym
when I never see you at Mass and
you aren't enrolled in Confirmation classes?"
We want the Church to serve us but
we fail to serve the Church.

Rend the heavens!

Babies are born to unwed teenage mothers
who barely know how to care for themselves
much less a new young life,
and mother and child cry together
for want of basic necessities and for love.

Rend the heavens!

These are dark days, O Lord.
Our hearts yearn for you
although we hardly allow
ourselves to know it
and we disguise our need behind
a false set of wants and a false sense of self.

Rend the heavens, O Lord, and come down!
Fill our hearts with a deep love for You.
End our misery, our poverty, our want,
and our spiritual starvation.
Show us that with You at our side
nothing else matters,
You are all we need.

O that you would rend the heavens and come down!
O that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent: The Season for...Fighting?

Every year it’s the same story when Advent comes around…Advent, which means, “come”. The ideals that our family holds up, the things we most want to come into our lives are peace, harmony and joy. We always start with the best intentions. We create a homemade Advent wreath, cutting fresh sprigs of cedar from our trees in the backyard and fill a glass pie dish with the greens and four candles, violet and pink. We lovingly place the wreath at the center of our kitchen table. Each evening as part of our dinner prayer, the children take turns lighting a candle and reading a prayer about building the stable in our hearts for Jesus. Doesn’t that sound beautiful? No greedy dreams of Christmas wishes for toys and gadgets. No secular Christmas music blaring from our radio. No loading up on Christmas treats and Christmas decorations before the season actually arrives. Just peace, harmony and joy around our Advent kitchen table.

Now for the reality check. It’s true we make a beautiful Advent wreath each year and lovingly place it at the center of our kitchen table. It’s true the children take turns lighting the candles and saying the prayer. But I’m sorry to admit that it is not as beautiful as it sounds. Each night, after the children are called to the dinner table, the arguing ensues before anyone even sits down. “Mom, can I light the candle tonight?” comes out of nearly every child’s mouth, followed by “You did it last night, it’s my turn!” And “No, it’s my turn!” As whose turn it will actually be to light the candle is decided, the arguments begin over who will do the reading of the prayer. The older boys have long since decided that the fight is not worth the effort, as the smaller ones almost always win out with their louder cries and complaints.

I often wonder if anyone is actually paying attention to the prayer, as it often turns out that the child who is lighting the candle struggles with the lighter and everyone tries to help. Then, the prayer reader usually struggles with some difficult words which seems to take a great deal of meaning out of the prayer, as the sibling next to the reader helps with pronunciation. By the time the candle is finally lit and the prayer is said, my family often has to rush through supper as our busy evening of homework, dishes, basketball practice, laundry and volunteer work looms overhead. The lighting of the candle and the reciting of the prayer seem like one more thing we have to get through, rather than something to slow us down and change our focus from busy activity to quiet contemplation.

But, I believe that somewhere down the line, my children will remember this tradition, even with the fighting included, and have fond memories and traditions to pass on to their own children. I believe that in their hearts they will remember the meaning behind the tradition. They will remember that our main intention was to invite the light of Christ into our home and our hearts, day after day, no matter what challenges stood in the way. They will remember that our family dinnertime was important enough to take place before all of the busy evening activities, and that our family prayer time was important enough to take place before our family dinner. Christ comes first in our lives, then family, then busy activities. They will remember that they had to learn to work out their differences. They will remember the satisfaction of learning to be patient with the lighting of the candle and the reading of the prayer. They will remember how good it felt to forgo their turn at candle lighting to let one of the younger ones enjoy that privilege.

As we journey together through the dark days of Advent, the light of God must be entering our hearts without our awareness, because little by little, the arguing gives way to loving assistance and patient understanding, until the arguing is all but forgotten and only the joy of our Advent waiting in family love remains. Not only do I wait patiently for Christmas, but I also wait for the day when our children will have all left home and Paul and I will be left alone to fight over who gets to light the Advent candle and say the prayer. So I whisper my own little prayer to Jesus, “Take your time, let us enjoy this present moment of dark Advent waiting, and let us enjoy this present time with children in our home to love and enjoy. Teach us not to hurry through Advent and not to hurry through life. Teach us to find you, right here, right now, God with us, Emmanuel. Christmas will “come”, the day that the children leave home will “come”, but for right now, let us remain in the gift of the present moment, even if we do have to put up with a few fights now and then.”

(a re-post from the archives)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lay Associate of the Priesthood

"My beloved Jesus, by the Precious Blood which you did shed on the day of the Circumcision, deign to watch over the infancy and early education of the children whom You have destined to minister at the altar, that they may be preserved spotless till consecrated to You by the Holy Unction. Bless the families that honor Your Precious Blood and spread this devotion by choosing from their midst a large number of vocations to the priesthood and by maintaining their fervor till the close of their lives.

Our Lady of the Precious Blood, watch over the living chalices of the Blood of Jesus. Amen."

~part of Prayers for Priests and Those Destined for the Priesthood which is recited daily by the Handmaids of the Precious Blood as a closing prayer after Vespers. The beautiful prayer continues in a litany format comprising the various life events of a man discerning the priesthood and throughout his priestly life up until his time of death.

It was one month ago when I became enrolled as a Candidate for the Oblates of the Precious Blood. Since then I have received my first lesson, The Primacy of the Spiritual, a lovely and inspiring five page document about the importance of placing God first in my life and the value of suffering.

As part of the candidacy process, I have been enrolled as a "Lay Associate of the Priesthood." What a joy it was for me to receive the name of a priest for whom I will pray the following prayer daily for the rest of my life:

"Lord Jesus, live in all priests and help them truly appreciate their unique oneness with You so that they shall never crave for more or less than just Yourself and Your Love forever.

Grant Father (n.) the grace to seek for no other joy than Your Love and the privilege of bringing it to others.

Grant to me, an ever-deepening reverence of Your Priesthood. And when death ends my life here on earth, may You, the Eternal High Priest, reveal to me in the Beatific Vision the consolation everlasting of having prayed and sacrificed for Your priests on earth. Amen."

Do you feel called to pray for a specific priest on a daily basis? You, too, can become a "Lay Associate of the Priesthood." All that is required is a desire to spiritually adopt a priest through prayer and commit to praying for him daily.

There are currently 40,000 priests in the United States in need of prayer. The Handmaids of the Precious Blood, a cloistered community in New Mexico, keep a list of the priests names and they would welcome those who are willing to spiritually adopt a priest and pray for him daily. All they ask is that you commit to praying the above prayer for your priest by his first name each day. If gratitude for the gift of the priesthood in your life compels you to prayer, please consider sending the Handmaids of the Precious Blood an email letting them know about your desire to spiritually adopt a priest and they will send you the daily prayer along with the name of priest who needs and would welcome your prayer.

To learn more about the Handmaids of the Precious Blood and to discern whether or not you might be called to join in association with their mission to pray for priests, visit this link:

By Patient Endurance You Will Save Your Life

At St. Matthias parish we are blessed with the presence of Fr. Dan Murphy who occasionally celebrates daily Mass with us. So often I hear people say that these are "the end times" and so I found his homily today to be especially beautiful and comforting. I asked him if I could share his words here so that others might also be comforted by his tender and true words and he agreed. His homily follows:

By patient endurance you will save your life.
-Luke 21:19

Some people don’t seem to be satisfied until they have something to worry about; even imaginary troubles. Jesus tells us about some calamities today. The beautiful temple of Jerusalem —it’ll be torn down; not one stone on another. There will be false messiahs. There will be wars, natural disasters and the betrayals of friends and relatives. And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. And every one of these things has happened over and over again ever since.

Can you think of one generation that hasn’t seen wars, hurricanes, floods, persecutions and the collapse of some sacred institution? In just the past few years we watched the awesome Twin Towers in New York get smashed to dust. We watched the unfolding of the priest sex abuse disaster and the Catholic bishops attempt to cover it up. Even in your own personal life, you’ve had events that felt like an earthquake.

Are you ready for some good news? Jesus answers: "By patient endurance you will save your life." Jesus warns you to avoid the easy answers. He knew that many false messiahs would come, using his name. And they have. These people claim to have an easy, quick solution to all of your problems. What’s his advice? Don't follow them. Yes, it’s a big temptation to think of faith in God as an easy way out. “Are you in financial difficulty? Try Jesus. He’ll make you rich. Is your health failing? Try Jesus. He’ll make you well."

Is that what he promised? Does he give easy escapes from the very real problems of life? Oh no! It’s just the opposite. “They will persecute you because of my name. All will hate you because of me.” That doesn't sound like an easy escape to me. Jesus has no easy answers. But he does have a promise. "Not a hair of your head will be harmed." "I will be with you always."

When all’s going wrong, you can count on that promise, on that loving presence, on that unfailing nearness. “Come to me all you who find life a heavy burden and I will refresh you.”

The future is in the hands of God. And that’s the best place for it to be. The future is not in your control. You’ll only make yourself sick by trying to go there. The only time that God gives you is right now.

So, don’t look for him on a pink cloud or with a jeweled crown. Look for him in our gathering together right here, right now. Look for him in the words of the Bible, in the Host you cradle in your hand and on your tongue. Look for him at home, on the faces of your dear ones. But look for him especially where he told you to look: in the faces of people who are hungry and thirsty. Look for him in the people who feel alone. Look for him in people who are defenseless, those who feel sick and even for people who are locked up in prison. And the next time you glance at a mirror look for him inside of you. He’s in there. Honor him.

At those times when it’s hard to live in the present moment. Listen to the voice of Jesus: “My name is God-with-you. I will wipe away all the tears from your eyes. There will be no more death, mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.” Yes, it’s time to stop worrying because:

By patient endurance you will save your life.

Whether the Lord is coming this Thanksgiving or a thousand years from now, that’s none of your business. Your task is to live as if he were arriving this very day. Some day he will come in power and glory to wipe away every tear. But today he’s coming quietly, softly, invisibly.

By patient endurance you will save your life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mass for the People by Caryll Houselander

It's such a blessing to have a friend who knows you well, who perceives what will move you and who shares things with you understanding that it will touch your heart. I have a friend like that in Fr. Jim Kubicki, SJ, who, while on retreat, came across a story by one of my all-time favorite authors and the subject of many of my past blog posts, Caryll Houselander, and he promptly sent the story on to me for my enjoyment. Not only was it a moving story written by her creative hand, but the subject matter was also near and dear to my heart; it's the story of a priest offering Mass. I tried to find the source of this story online but had no luck, so I will share some of my favorite passages here and I pray that the words will touch your heart as deeply as they touched mine.

(Fr. Jim is currently in Rome and will be sharing parts of his Roman adventure on his blog "Offer it Up." Please pay him a visit to follow along with his experiences!)

excerpts from Mass for the People by Caryll Houselander:

"The priest was on the side of life, he had no other work, no other raison d'etre but to give life, and the life he gave could not be killed. He was not outside of the world's love because he was a priest and alone, he was the heart of the world's love, its core, because the Life of the World is born every day in His hands at Mass.

Father O'Grady made the Sign of the Cross. "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen," and bowed down under the burden of the sins of the whole world. His own sins were a heavy enough load, and now he bowed under the weight of all sin. But when he straightened himself up from the Confiteor, the burden of the whole world's sin, and his own with it, had fallen from his back, and his shoulders were strong. For it was Christ who rose up and went up to the altar-Christ who had seen evil naked, face to face, Christ who had been brought down to the ground, under the world's sin to sweat blood into the dust, and Christ who had overcome the world.

He lifted the unconsecrated Host, light as a petal on its thin golden paten, and with it lifted the simple bread of humanity, threshed and sifted by poverty and suffering. He offered the broken fragments of their love, made into one loaf.

He lifted the wine and water mixed in the Chalice, and with it offered the blood and the tears of his people to God.

And God accepted the offering, the fragments of love were gathered up into the wholeness of Love and nothing was wasted.

Slowly, exactly, Father O'Grady repeated the words of Consecration, his hands moved in Christ's hands, his voice spoke in Christ's voice, his words were Christ's words, his heart beat in Christ's heart.

Fr. O'Grady lifted up the consecrated Host in his short, chapped hands, the server rang a little bell, the sailor, the handful of old women and the very old man bowed down whispering "My Lord and my God" and the breath of their adoration was warm on their cold fingers.

Father O'Grady was lifting up God.

A cry arose from all over the world, "Come down from the Cross if you are the Son of God!" "Save yourself and us too if you are the Christ."

But Christ remained on the Cross. His fingers closed on the nails. The Crown of Thorns was in flower, the five ribs like the five fingers of the world's pain gripped His heart, and His heart broke open and the river of the world's life flowed out of it. A crimson flood sweeping His heart and brain and flowing into the tips of His fingers, swept through His Mystical Body. Through the eternal heart of Rome, through the lonely mind of her august Shepherd, out into the least and lowliest of men, and the last little infant howling at the touch of the waters of Baptism, the blood of the world's life flowed into the finger tips, which stretched out on the Cross, measuring the reach and stretch and extremity and ultimate possibility of love.

The world strained at the nails, wrenched and dragged, the Cross was shaken in the earth, bent like a tree in the storm, dragged earthward by the weight of man's body, but it was rooted in rock, and the Cross was built to the shape of man, not man to the shape of the Cross. The world's suffering was built and fitted to the size of each man, and the Cross stood.

"Come down, come down, come down!"

But Christ would not come down from the Cross.

The little server rang his silver bell.
The people bowed down low.
Time stopped.
Fr. O'Grady was lifting up God in his large, chapped hands.
Christ remained on the Cross.
The blood and sweat and tears of the world were on His face. he smiled, the smile of infinite peace, the ineffable bliss of consummated love."


Each year on the Monday before Thanksgiving, the WIC Clinic where I work participates in our local community's "Family to Family Thanksgiving" which distributes 3000 turkey dinners to the needy in our community annually. Since I am the only staff member at work who drives a van, my small role is to drive to the warehouse to pick up the 30 dinners that we are alloted and bring them back to our clinic where we share them with our neediest families.

Every year on turkey day (as it is affectionately known) I leave the house in the morning to find that my husband has already lovingly turned the car seats down to make extra room for all of the turkeys that I will be transporting. As I arrive at the warehouse where the dinners are distributed, I pull into a line of cars, turn my hazard lights on and wait for my turn. When I finally reach the loading dock, I am greeted by about 50 volunteers who open the doors of my van and fill it to the brim with the holiday food. How I wish my weekly grocery shopping experience for my family could be like this! Just pull up to the grocery store and a bunch of people come out and load all of your groceries for you!

Today as I waited in line to present my humble and lowly van to the volunteers who would fill it with food for those who are physically hungry, I had ample time to pray the rosary, and I thought about the beauty of today's Feast Day, the Presentation of the Blessed Mother.

Like me waiting in line, Mary waited, too; in fact she lifted the virtue of patience to an exalted state as she waited to be presented at the Temple by St. Joachim and St. Anne, after which she waited to learn what God's will for her life would be. And His will was for her body to be filled with the Bread of Life who would feed those who were hungry not for physical satiation but rather for spiritual fulfillment. Upon His birth, she waited yet again for his quiet and uneventful years of growth to pass by and for His mission to begin.

And she knew.

She knew that His mission would end in tortuous death, yet she waited for it with peace. As the crucifixion occured, she continued to patiently wait as she stood at the foot of the cross, silently suffering with Her Son. Then, after His lifeless body was placed in the tomb, she waited for His resurrection and ascension into glory.

Today, the time that I spent waiting in my van to pick up the Thanksgiving dinners became a perfect pause of thankful prayer united with the Queen of patience, and I hope that the Blessed Mother will continue to calmly stay by my side and by the side of all of her children, as we wait for our own presentations in the heavenly Kingdom of God. I returned to work, van weighed down with food to nourish the physically hungry and myself feeling a bit more satiated spiritually by my quiet time of waiting prayer with the Blessed Mother on her special day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Exercise of Faith

"I do believe, Lord. Help my unbelief." Mark 9:24

A few months ago I came across a great story about Archbishop Dolan's talk to the pilgrims at World Youth Day. I've been saving it, always wanting to reflect and write about it, but after several months of meditating upon his rich words, I just can't come up with anything further to say. He says it all so perfectly. Maybe his words about faith and evangelization bring about thoughts that you would like to share?


During a question-and-answer session, one Australian pilgrim touched on what will likely be a challenge for many young people once they leave World Youth Day: how to interact with those who do not agree with the basic principles of the Catholic faith and who are, in fact, living a life averse to the church’s teachings.

The archbishop’s answer was simply this: with love.

“We can scream, we can yell, we can castigate, we can alienate, we can nag, and most of the time if we do that we lose,” he said. “Or we can be gracious, patient, loving, understanding, persistent, welcoming. And most of the time when we do that, we’re also going to lose. But less than the first one.”

“When we admit our faith is weak, when we admit our faith is shaky, when we admit that our faith isn’t what it should be, actually we’re exercising it, and we’re making it more and more firm,” he said. “Something tells me that’s why we’re (at World Youth Day),” he said. “Our faith is weak, our faith is shaky. We want to be with a million other young people from around the world who love their faith and are trying to make it strong.”

Source: Catholic Herald UK, August 18, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

These Hands Bring Me Jesus

I often wonder if my faith would be the same without Greg Kandra's The Deacon's Bench blog. I learn so much and am often inspired by his posts so I give him a great deal of credit for forming my faith. He recently shared a link to These Hands Bring Me Jesus. I encourage you to spend some time visiting this website reading the stories and viewing the impressive pictures and slideshow by Stephen Golder. You will be moved with gratitude and love for the bishops and priests in your life, the men whose hands bring you Jesus.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

To Feel the Pain

"Remember that to reach the Resurrection, one must always climb Mt. Calvary. No one has ever (or will ever) come up with another way to salvation.

You will never know the depth of your own soul, unless you are willing to climb down deep into it and sit there for a while. It is there, sitting in the muck and sludge of our own sinfulness, our own humanity, our own brokenness, that we come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ."
~Deacon Ryan Preuss

I recently met with a woman at work who was pregnant with her fourth child. She told me that her three sons were all incredibly easy to deliver; she just showed up at the hospital and before she knew it she was holding a beautiful baby boy in her arms without having experienced any real pain. I marveled at that and considered her to be very fortunate as labor pains are hardly something that a woman relishes about having a baby. But she disagreed with my point of view. She said that with this baby she was hoping for a long labor and wanted to feel all of the pain. She wanted to experience and savor every moment of the pregnancy, labor, delivery and parenting of her child.

Thinking about her response made me realize the value of her words. Our lives were meant to be fully experienced and savored, but without the pain which is a natural part of life, how can we fully appreciate the joys?

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with some good friends who generously host occasional parties in an old barn that has been converted to a gymnasium complete with basketball hoops, trampolines, slides, rope swings and a foam pit. Don and Anne kindly invite the teen boys, including my sons, who participate in the St. Francis de Sales Seminary camps for boys discerning the priesthood, to come and release some pent up energy while re-connecting with their friends that they met at the camps. They will often invite some priests and seminarians to join us and they ask them to offer a little reflection for the boys to ponder. At this most recent gathering we were joined by Deacon Ryan Preuss and seminarian Kurt Krauss who shared their experiences of the World Youth Day Pilgrimage in Madrid, Spain, with us.

It seems that neither of these young men had a joyous and perfect experience on their pilgrimage, in fact, hardship and difficulty seemed to be the defining description. They spent nights sleeping outside on the cold, hard ground in clothes that were soaking wet from the rain, they suffered the effects of sitting closely with crowds of pilgrims from around the world, they went without eating, they lost members of their groups and were barred from entering the tent for the final Mass with the Pope. Deacon Ryan commented that in some cases it almost felt like purgatory as his group was standing outside of a tent where Eucharistic Adoration was taking place and there was a huge sign that said "Welcome" but they weren't allowed inside because the tent was overcrowded. Yet, in all of their remarks they both overwhelming stated that their pilgrimage was a reflection of the Christian life overall. Life isn't meant to be easy, things aren't always supposed to go as planned, there is no guarantee that we will always be happy; and they wouldn't have it any other way. Because in the challenges and difficulties as well as in the joys and successes, we find God at work, changing us, refining us, loving us.

When my struggles with depression were at their worst, my son Joe, who was often most distraught to see his mother suffering and astutely noticed that the timing of my psychological breakdown coincided with a deeper conversion into my Catholic faith, would often complain and ask, "Mom, why is it that ever since you became a Jesus freak, you have been miserable? Why would anyone want to turn to God if doing so makes you so unhappy?" And in my sorrow, I couldn't clearly think of a response other than to reiterate how much I love Jesus and that my depression was not His fault, but just a part of life; but my words felt lame and inadequate and nothing that I could say to him in response to his question would satisfy him. I was at a loss for an explanation and his words cut me to the quick. In fact, there were many times when I joined in Joe's complaint and put his same questions in prayer to God. But here, in the words of Deacon Ryan and Kurt, and in the viewpoint of the expectant mother, the answer became crystal clear; we aren't meant to escape the pain, we are meant to feel the pain and to endure in our faith despite the suffering we may feel.

To feel the pain is to allow God to work in your life, to let Him draw you closer to His love through the entire experience of life, both the painful and the pleasant moments. If we want to follow Christ, we must travel through the trials of the cross, trials which will manifest themselves differently for each of us, before we can reach the glories of the resurrection. If we really want to bear the name Christian, then like St. Therese we must say "I choose all!" and learn to carry on and work through the pain so that one day, we will be able to fully embrace the joys of heaven. There is no "easy out," we must strive to accept the fact that despite the hardness of life, God will never abandon us and our lives have a deep and meaningful purpose that will only make sense to us when we leave this life for our final destiny where we will then clearly see that all of the suffering we endured on earth was meaningful and beautiful, and God used it all for His glory in the mystery of His plan. In the words of Pope John Paul II from Salvifici Doloris, "in whatever form, suffering seems to be, and is, almost inseparable from man's earthly existence." We were born to feel the pain and to remain faithful despite our suffering. Our call as Christians is to unite our suffering with the suffering of Christ and in our pain, however minor or horrific it may be, we will be assisting God as He redeems our souls and those of the whole world.

All Saints and All Souls

The following is an educational piece that I wrote for our parish newsletter on All Saints Day and All Souls Day:

“How beautiful and consoling is the communion of saints! It is a reality that infuses a different dimension to our whole life. We are never alone! We form part of a spiritual "company" in which profound solidarity reigns: the good of each one is for the benefit of all and, vice versa, the common happiness is radiated in each one. It is a mystery that, in a certain measure, we can already experience in this world, in the family, in friendship, especially in the spiritual community of the Church.” ~Pope Benedict XVI

We are so blessed as Catholics to have so many heavenly friends in the communion of saints to whom we can look up to as examples of faith and upon whom we can call for prayerful intercession to the Father. Who among us doesn’t have a “favorite” saint or two with whom we can identify in our struggles to live our faith each day? Although many saints are given specific days on the church calendar in which we honor them alone, the Church in her wisdom has dedicated one day each year in which we honor all of the saints in the Church Triumphant (those who are in heaven) and the Church Militant (those still living on earth) including those who are known, as well as those who are unknown to us or to the world at large. Together, the saints living and deceased make up the Communion of Saints, to which we confess our belief in the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds.

All Saint’s Day is always celebrated on November 1st and it is a holy day of obligation in which all Catholics are required to attend Mass. The solemnity of All Saints Day can be traced back to Pope Gregory III (731-741) who consecrated a chapel within St. Peter’s Basilica to all of the saints on November 1st, and nearly 100 years later the celebration was shared with the entire Church by Pope Gregory IV (827-844.)

All Saints Day is immediately followed by All Souls Day on November 2nd, where we pray for all of our beloved deceased especially those who are part of the Church Penitential (those who are being purified in purgatory.) Our prayers on this day are meant to help those we love to be released from the pains of purgation for their venial sins and to enter into the glories of heaven. The celebration of All Souls Day can be traced back to seventh century monks who wanted a special day to pray for their deceased community members. By the 13th century it was added to the calendar of the Church. Although All Souls Day is not a Holy Day of Obligation, praying for the dead is a spiritual act of mercy so attendance at Mass on this day and the offering of special prayers for the dead is a beautiful way to love and honor those who have passed through life before us.

Please honor the communion of saints with your prayerful presence at Mass on these days!