Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Visitation

“How can this be, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43

The Feast of the Visitation (May 31st) is a perfect example of friendship. Here two great and holy women have incredible and amazing news to share. Mary and Elizabeth rush to be together and their human love for one another escapes from their hearts and becomes a united prayer of love and gratitude to God. They recognize that the holiness, the goodness, and the joy of their friendship comes from God alone and together they celebrate the miracle of the beginnings of new life welling up within their bodies.  Life seems inexplicably beautiful.

Continue reading this post on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee home page...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Holy Hour

"Daughter, when I'm making a holy hour, I am happy!"

My deceased aunt Monica to my cousin Martha when she would tease her mom about her frequent holy hours and say "Mom, I think you're just keeping a happy hour!"

A spiritual practice that is highly recommended by the Handmaids of the Precious Blood for the Oblate Candidates is offering ten minutes of silent thanksgiving after every Mass for the gift of the Eucharist. Last Lent, in an effort to increase the prayer in my "prayer, fasting and almsgiving" I decided to take that ten minutes to 45 minutes, in other words, I stayed in church after daily Mass until I had to leave to go to work.  I quickly came to love that silent time with the Lord and now, nearing the end of the Easter season, I continue to remain in church long after Mass is over.

My daily holy hour has become an occasion of great joy. Most days after the last person leaves from daily Mass I am alone in the darkened church, just me and Jesus and nobody else. I love that! Other days I am joined by the janitor who is lovingly cleaning the church. With the exception of praying the Stations of the Cross, reaching up to touch the marble feet of Christ before I journey to each succeeding station, my prayer is silent, wanting to be able to hear the voice of God speak to me about His will for my life and not wanting to miss it when He softly whispers those words I long to hear... "I love you." On my way out I light a candle for a friend or two, bless myself abundantly with holy water and my day begins in the most perfect way imaginable.

Thursdays are the exception, however. On Thursdays a small crew of volunteers stays behind to clean the church giving God their own gift of love by keeping our place of worship beautifully clean. I watch as a woman replaces burnt out votive candles, another dust mops the floor around the altar and the women whom I fondly call the "Call to Action ladies" dust the tabernacle. Their work is valuable and I am a bit envious, especially of those whose job it is to dust the tabernacle-I think of what an honor it must be to caress the golden box that holds our Lord! But the chatter on Thursdays is often loud and so I have decided to take my holy hour elsewhere on that day.

So on Thursday mornings I drive across town to the abortion mill and have just enough time to pray the rosary before work. I consider this to be a holy hour just as valuable as my time in church because here I am honoring Christ who resides in the tabernacles of women who don't realize that they carry God within their wombs, women who don't realize that God who created all life is also living within all that He has created. At the abortion mill I join several other people who are praying for the sanctity of life, working to save babies from the horror of abortion. I stand side by side with the deathscort who returns my smile with a sneer and look out at the drivers who stare or shout vulgarities from their cars as they pass by on their own way to work. Here I am publicly witnessing to my love for Christ that has been nurtured in those silent holy hours. And I leave my Thursday morning holy hour at the abortuary feeling every bit as fed by the love of God as I do when I am in a silent church praying before Christ in the tabernacle.

Today, however, when I arrived at the abortion mill, I was alone in my prayer, there were no other pro-life witnesses on the sidewalk.  The mill was still closed and so I stood alone on the sidewalk, rosary in hand, silently praying.  Soon a car pulled up and I recognized the woman inside as one of the abortion mill workers, one who is known to be a Wiccan and whom I have heard berating and belittling and swearing at those who pray outside of the mill.  She didn't get out of her car, but just sat there where she was parked.  I could feel her looking at me and it made me very uncomfortable.  So when I finished my rosary, I went inside of my own van to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Just as I was nearing the end of my time of prayer, two beautiful, model-perfect women showed up and tried to open the door of the clinic but found it locked.  I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to speak with them.  So, I left the comfort of my van and asked if I could help them.  They looked a bit puzzled so I told them that the Women's Care Center across the street was already open and they would be happy to help them with a free ultrasound or anything else they might need.  One of the women told me that it was ok, she had an appointment at the mill.  So I told her that I would pray for her and her baby and she thanked me.  As I got back in my car to leave for work, I saw the abortion mill staff arrive and open the clinic door for the women.

This was the first time that I ever summoned the courage to attempt to counsel anyone outside of the abortion mill and although it didn't seem to appear that my efforts met with success, I hold on to the hope that my prayer resounds within their hearts.  I may never know the good that my words might have done but I thank God for prodding me to get out of my van and speak them.

Today, during my holy hour, I didn't hear God whisper His love for me. Instead, he inspired me to whisper love to Him through my words of concern for His precious daughter and her baby.  I pray that she accepts His love and brings another one of His beautiful children to life.

"Mary recaptures woman's vocation from the beginning namely, to be to humanity the bearer of the Divine. Every mother is this when she gives birth to a child, for the soul of every child is infused by God. She thus becomes a co-worker with Divinity; She bears what God alone can give. As the priest in the order of Redemption, at the moment of Consecration, brings the crucified Savior to the altar, so the mother in the order of creation brings the spirit which issues from the Hand of God to the cradle of the earth. With such thoughts in mind, Leon Bloy once said: "The more a woman is holy, the more she becomes a woman."

Fulton Sheen
"The World's First Love"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I met a man at the crosswalk.  It was the crosswalk of a busy downtown street but it could easily have been a crosswalk of life.  He asked for help.  I knew he wanted money of which I had none.  I held out my hands to show him that all I carried was my office key and a rosary.  The rosary was a simple bracelet made of wooden beads held together by a strand of elastic. Day after day I worked those wooden beads through my fingers, slowly wearing them down to the elastic thread.  I told him that he could have my rosary, if that would be a help to him.

He asked, "What's a rosary?"

And I could have entered into a lengthy discussion right then and there, trying to explain the ancient Catholic devotion to the Blessed Mother.  I could have told him about how the angel came to her telling her that she was the highly favored one and her humble response of acceptance.  I could have shared the great sorrow of her life, how she stood beneath the cross and watched her son, her own flesh and blood, God's own flesh and blood, suffer and die, and how before his last breath escaped from his lungs he gave her to all of us to be our own mother.  I could have told him about the glory of that Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of our Savior and the promise of our own eternal joy.  I could have stood there and taught him the words of the prayers that echo through my heart for hours after I pray them.  I could have told him about the great joy and happiness that my Catholic faith brings to me and how praying the rosary is part of that joy and happiness.

But the light was about to change and I was late for work so I simply said, "It's to pray with."

He reached out his hand to accept my offering and I placed my rosary within his upturned palm and said "God bless you!"

And as I walked away I prayed for his well-being, both physically and spiritually.  I prayed that he might actually cling to the rosary and formulate his own prayers from his heart.  I asked the Blessed Mother to hold his hand and comfort him in his need so that he would no longer suffer the effects of poverty of body or poverty of soul.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Upper Room-A Homily by Fr. Dan Murphy

Some days I wake up feeling discouraged before I even get out of bed, and I pray, "Oh Lord, how am I going to get through this day?"  Today was one of those days and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly He answered that prayer.  As my children and I stepped into church we were greeted by Fr. Dan Murphy, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.  He called each of us by name, embraced us and said "Peace be with you."  Then, during Mass, Fr. Dan gave a beautifully consoling homily. After Mass I had the church to myself for a full hour; I was in my upper room of prayer which always fills me with the peace of Christ and breaks through any frustration that I may be carrying in my soul.  So how am I going to get through this day?  With the courage and peace that comes from Christ, and is found in a friendly greeting from a holy priest and silent prayer in His Eucharistic presence!

Enjoy Fr. Dan's homily below and please keep him in your prayers!

“Take courage! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

These days between Ascension and Pentecost are days of prayer; days of prayer and days of waiting. We have a picture of the apostles and Mary in the upper room for 9 days. They're all praying and waiting, and waiting and then praying some more. And they’re back in that upper room.

What was the first thing the apostles did after they received the great commission to spread the good news to the entire world? They did exactly what Jesus did when he started his mission. They withdrew from the busy world. They went to the silent upper room to pray and wait for the Holy Spirit. They’d learned well from their master. Prayer—regular, faithful prayer; that was the high octane gas that gave energy to their work. You and I also need to carve out regular time for prayer. We also need to withdraw to our upper room.

Everyone needs an upper room. Everyone needs a special place where it’s possible to relax and pray; sometimes alone, sometimes with others. Every day there’s some obligation to be met. Tomorrow morning when you wake up from a good night's sleep what's the one of the first things that comes into your mind? What do I have to do today? There are problems to solve, appointments to keep, bills to pay. Life isn’t easy. Even ordinary days can be demanding. Jesus was no stranger to pressure. People were always seeking his help. There were days when he didn’t have enough time to eat or to rest.

Jesus lived with pressure every day. The supreme crisis of his life was the cross. On the night before his died, on the eve of the worst day of his life, Jesus called on strength greater than his own. When life became hard, too hard even for him, Jesus prayed.

 The gift of Jesus to the disciples and to you is the gift of courage and peace. And it all starts and continues with prayer.

A business person who admired Mother Teresa of Calcutta offered to make a set of business cards for her work. Printed on the small yellow cards were 5 lines which outline what Mother Teresa called her simple path. The cards read: "The fruit of silence is PRAYER. The fruit of prayer is FAITH. The fruit of faith is LOVE. The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is PEACE. This simple path led Mother Teresa to live her life in union with God and to give herself in loving service to the poorest of the poor. It all starts with silence and prayer.

“Take courage! I have overcome the world.”

Q. Where is your upper room?


I opened an email from my boss that said "Meeting on Friday at 1 PM Sharp!" and then because I already knew about that meeting I closed the email without reading any further. That was a mistake because what I missed was an important detail about a free lunch that would be served at 12:30.

Friday morning arrived and as is typical for a Friday morning it was busy in the WIC Clinic. I listened to client after client complain about their struggles with breastfeeding or about the difficulties of finding a dentist who would take Badgercare state insurance. I encouraged these young mothers about the benefits and the bonding of breastfeeding and assisted them as best I could, and offered referrals and sympathy for the mothers who couldn't find relief for their children's toothaches. "We should all tell our children to grow up to be dentists," I said, "there clearly is a shortage."

I worked past my normal lunch break and wondered why none of my coworkers were leaving for their own lunch breaks. I popped my head into Chue's office and she explained that our boss was treating everyone to lunch at the meeting so nobody was taking a lunch break. I assumed she meant the lunch would be served a one o'clock when the meeting started.  I went back to my office to work on sending out referrals to doctors about the low iron levels of some of my clients.

Around 12:45 I noticed that the office was strangely silent. I walked throughout the clinic and found that everyone was gone. I was alone. I headed down to the meeting room and found my boss and all of my co-workers eating lunch. "I thought the meeting was at 1," I said. They asked me if I had read the email that said lunch would be served at 12:30, before the meeting would begin.  Obviously, I hadn't. I made a mental note to myself to always read the complete emails from my boss and not simply skim the headlines in the future.  I couldn't help but feel a little miffed that nobody missed me at the lunch.

The meeting began with an in-service on how to deal with clients who are suffering from trauma. Trauma, it was explained, can occur from a major life catastrophe or from multiple minor everyday stresses like passing ten people in the hallway and not one of them says hello to you. Or like arriving late for a lunch meeting and nobody even noticing that you weren't there, I thought.

I felt traumatized.

One of the points of the in-service on how to cope with the traumas of daily life was to begin and end each day by being grateful for one good thing in your life. How Ignatian, I thought, but bit my tongue before I offered that piece of unwanted input at the secular office meeting. Instead, I offer it here, along with a list of people and things for which I am grateful.  Linking up with Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience Blog and her Multitudes on Mondays gratitude list, I thank God for...

~six newly ordained priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee!
~warm spring weather
~lilacs in bud
~a free lunch courtesy of my boss
~my husband and his humor-forever making me laugh
~daily holy hours
~friends who welcome my lengthy and frequent emails
~a new refrigerator after 20 years with our reliable Kenmore
~two sons with full-time summer groundskeeping jobs for the church-thanks for keeping them physically close to you, Lord!
~a son off to seminary college in a few short months
~birdsong in the early morning hours
~vegetable and flower gardens planted and ready to grow
~butterflies dancing around me while I work
~a timely thunderstorm just after planting is through
~son who gives me a bouquet of dead flowers a week after Mother's Day having just recovered them from his hiding place (it's the thought that counts-right?)

What are you thankful for?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


"Being a seminarian is a great life and I would only trade it for one thing, being a priest."
~Fr. Ryan Pruess, newly ordained

Another ordination day is upon the Archdiocese of Milwaukee!  In what has now become a tradition at Imprisoned in my Bones, I offer a re-post of a reflection on the day in light of the Ascension.

Please hold the following new priests in your prayers:

Fr. Ryan Pruess
Fr. Jacob Strand
Fr. Yamid Blanco
Fr. Carlos Zapata
Fr. Brad Krawczyk
Fr. Juan Manuel Comacho


  He lay on the cold, marble floor, face buried in his arms, body covered by white alb, with only the back of his head and his black shoes exposed. While the Litany of the Saints chant swirls throughout the Cathedral, he submits himself to God and His Church, and as the last echo of the chant fades away, he will rise to face the challenge of his submission.

Later in the Liturgy, he assumes a posture of kneeling, as one by one, his brother priests lay their hands upon his head, calling down the Holy Spirit to dwell within his soul, and forever change him. Each set of hands that presses upon him creates more room within him for the indwelling of the One who will assist him to rise to his new life in the Spirit.

As he is invested with a stole and chasuble, a visible sign that he is one who has “put on Christ”, it seems like a veil has shifted and his appearance takes on the look of one who will rise above the ordinary to that of an extra-ordinary leader, one who will care for others as a father, a mother, a sibling and a friend. It is clear to see that his call is being fulfilled and his face shines with the brilliant light of Christ.

Finally, kneeling once again, the Archbishop consecrates his open hands with the Chrism that will soak through his skin and become a permanent part of him. Leaving him with a kiss upon those holy hands, the Archbishop watches him rise to face the church full of witnesses, no longer simply a holy man, but now “a priest, forever”.

This day of Ordination is also a day of Ascension for him, when, like Christ being lifted to heaven in a cloud, he, too, is surrounded by a cloud of sweet and fragrant incense which rises in prayer. The new priest himself becomes a prayer that will rise to bring Christ to the world through his love, his faithfulness, his service and his own words of prayer.

The overwhelming message of this day is “get up, begin, and rise”. After many long years of preparation, it is time to magnify the presence of the Lord within himself and allow it to surge outwards to all of the faithful. From this day on, each time he elevates the host and chalice, he himself will ascend to a loftier place, the place of heaven on earth as he acts in persona Christi. And as the faithful look on, our very spirits rise to heaven with him as we flourish in prayers of adoration for our Redeemer, and prayers of admiration and thanksgiving for the man who brings the True Presence of our Lord into our hearts and souls at each Mass.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!  Rejoice a thousand times!

Those are words from St. Louis de Montfort's Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  So often we see images of the Blessed Mother with tears in her eyes and a sorrowful expression on her face as she mourns and grieves over the sinfulness of her children.  But on Sunday, May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and Mother's Day, I believe that the Blessed Mother had just cause to wipe away her tears and rejoice, for on this day she was offered the loving prayers of over 250 of her children in the Milwaukee area who gathered together for a traditional May Crowning and outdoor Eucharistic Rosary Procession sponsored by Roses for Our Lady.

We began our day in expectant joy while the statue of the Blessed Mother at the Marian Shrine was crowned by a member of Roses for Our Lady, and our statue of Our Lady of Fatima on our  vara was crowned by a First Communicant.

Following the crowning, those who were able processed throughout the shrine neighborhood with our Eucharistic Lord while praying the rosary.  Our procession covered a ten block radius and for the first time in many, many years, we processed in the streets rather than on the sidewalk.  Use of the streets required a door to door campaign in the shrine neighborhood late last winter to gather signatures of the majority of the neighbors.  With three visits to the neighborhood I received enough signatures to qualify for a permit from the City of Milwaukee police department which allowed our group to really take our Lord to the streets and publicly share our faith.  Fr. Matthew Widder had the honor of carrying our Lord in procession for the second year in a row.

Following the procession we were treated to a beautiful homily by Bishop Hying and then Fr. Jim Kubicki led us in consecrating ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Fr. Christopher Klusman completed the day with benediction.

The Lord blessed us with gorgeous weather and we all rejoiced with the Blessed Mother on a day set aside to honor not only our mothers here on earth, but above all, our Blessed Mother and Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary.

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary!  Rejoice a thousand times!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Inside Scoop on God-A Very Special Book Review

When I was still in high school and would struggle to come up with ideas for creative writing assignments, I would always turn to my sister Debby for ideas, and she never failed to offer me a plethora of unique characters and situations to enliven my stories.  Our entire family has long encouraged her to work on a book because we knew that she had some serious talent.  Well now, our wait is finally over!  I am so proud to share this review of Debby's first published book about her experiences of God.

The Inside Scoop on God, is written from the perspective of a Christian who has long sought God on her own terms, not settling for the confines of any one particular religion.  I love the description she offers on her website, DeborahErdmann.com, which states,  "An ordinary housewife spent several years stalking God like the paparazzi."  To my great delight, Debby's search for God has culminated in not only a deep and abiding faith in my sister's soul, but also a terrific book that will inspire and challenge you to spend some time stalking God for yourself!

The Inside Scoop on God is set up as a daily devotional with humorous family stories intertwined with scripture that reveal God's presence in the world around us.  Although I've obviously known Debby all of my life, I found myself pleasantly surprised by many of her experiences that I had never known about, and deeply touched by some that were very personal to my own life.  Debby writes with a light-hearted and joyful spirit while teaching important lessons about the Christian life.  It is clear that God reveals Himself to Debby with a playful and loving touch and she revels in His love and then reaches out to generously share it with others.

From the very first chapter where Debby connects her camping experiences to that of the Hebrews in the  Exodus story, she invites you to join her on her journey of faith.

"So let's do this campout the right way, with the Lord of the star-studded sky and smoky mountain sitting right beside us.  Each day as you're settling in to read one of these stories, invite God to sit around the campfire with you.  You can light a candle and stick a marshmallow over it if you like."

You will want to follow her on the trail she travels and bring God ever more deeply into your heart and soul.  And when you've nearly reached the end of your investigation into The Inside Scoop on God, you will find that, like Debby, you want to keep God sitting right by your side at all times, a prospect she sums up so well with a quote by Brother Lawrence who said, "There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God."

I am so incredibly proud of Debby and so overwhelmingly happy to have a sister with such tremendous talent whose only desire is to use it to glorify God.  I love The Inside Scoop on God and you will, too!

Go ahead and visit Debby's website, DeborahErdmann.com, and watch for the availability of The Inside Scoop on God.  You will want to scoop up your own copy without delay and once you are holding it in your hands, you will devour every wonderful word from the beginning until the very end!

(Available in bookstores and on Amazon.com soon!  Visit Debby's website for details.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shine a Light

Late last month I had the honor of attending St. Francis de Sales Seminary's Open House and have been pondering the wonderful homily given by the rector, Fr. John Hemsing, ever since.

He began with a story about three men who all died at the same time and approached the gates of heaven only to find that St. Peter was on break and a substitute was taking his place at the pearly gates.  The man on duty asked the first man if he knew Jesus Christ.  "Of course," the man replied.  "I go to Mass every Sunday!  Yes, I know Jesus Christ."  The next man was questioned and he was also confident in his knowledge of Jesus Christ. He said, "Yes, I know Jesus.  I attend daily Mass and pray the rosary and read scripture every single day."  The man at the gate seemed to be pleased with these two responses.  Finally, he turned to the third man and asked the same question, "Do you know Jesus Christ?"  The man replied, "Of course I do!  I recognized You right away!"

As Fr. Hemsing continued with his homily he drove the point of this story home quite powerfully.  He said it may be fairly easy for you to be holy on the outside, to pray, to attend Mass, to read scripture, to perform works of charity.  But are you really holy on the inside?  Or is there some piece of sinfulness to which you refuse to let go?  Is there some darkness on the inside to which you cling?  What holds you back from really knowing and recognizing Jesus?

Homilies like this always make me cringe because I recognize that his words are directed right to me personally. It's as if Fr. Hemsing was speaking to my heart. This was one of those moments when Christ clearly spoke through the priest as He addressed my own state of sinfulness.  Jesus wants me to see that I am not meant to live with darkness in my soul.  He wants to draw me into the light that can only shine upon me after I let go of my tight and fervent clinging to sin. My efforts to hide in the shadows and to avoid the love that can only be showered upon me when I am contrite and humbled before God have got to be put aside, cast off forever, and my heart needs to open itself to the amazing love of God who wants me to know Him and to be filled with His light and His love.

Are you like me-performing acts of holiness on the outside but clinging to sin within?  Do you think that you can effectively cast the glow of Jesus' love to the world around you while that darkness remains inside your heart?

How blessed we are as Catholics to have recourse to the confessional where the black stain of sin may be scrubbed from our souls.  We don't have to accept simply being holy on the outside through actions that all can see; we can shine with the light of holiness both inside and out through a deep repentance and turning away from all of the shadows that darken our souls.

Dear Jesus, Lord of all that is bright and holy, shine your love within my soul.  Reveal my sins to me and allow me to feel such a deep hatred for them that I will refuse to allow their ugliness to keep me from recognizing You when You call me home to Your eternal kingdom.  Bring me to my knees in contrition for love of You.  Amen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

God Put Me There

When I learned about the death of my neighbor's daughter, I complained to my sister about my sorrow at not knowing my neighbors, and at not being there to comfort them in their grief. And my sister said very matter-of-factly, "If God had wanted you to be there, He would have put you there."

If God had wanted you to be there, He would have put you there.

What blessed words of reassurance reminding us all that wherever we are, whatever situations we may find ourselves in or whatever events we miss in life, it is all through the grace of God's will.  What peace can dwell within our souls if we only remember that God will use us as He sees fit and all we have to do is lovingly and trustingly submit to His actions in our lives.

So often my insecurities and pride cause me discomfort. I find myself in situations where I feel as if I don't fit in, I don't belong.  I wonder how in the world I ever came to be in this particular place at this particular moment and I long to run away, to escape to some private hide-away where I can be alone and won't have to face my responsibilities.  It is then that I only have to remember that God put me there.  He is always with me and I can carry on.

When I don't feel smart enough, beautiful enough, young enough, old enough, rich enough, strong enough, brave enough, holy enough, to accept my present situation in life, I need only remember that God put me there as I am not as who I think I should be.  He is always with me and I can carry on.

Remembering that God put me there will bring peace without regret.  No more will I wonder why I wasn't given a particular blessing or why I wasn't chosen to endure a certain hardship.  I will no longer wonder why I was asked to lead or to follow, to go out or to stay in, to celebrate in a moment of joy or to cry in a time of sorrow.  Learning to accept God's will for my life in each individual situation that I may find myself in will only bring me the peace that can be found from letting go in complete submission to His divine plan.

If God had wanted you to be there, He would have put you there.