Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Seven Most Beautiful Churches in Milwaukee

Last week I posted a book review of architect Duncan Stroik's The Church Building as a Sacred Place.  I was greatly impressed by some of the magnificent churches from around the world that were pictured within the book.  Then I stumbled across a blog post by John White at on  The 12 Most Beautiful Churches in America  and I was reminded of a dear friend of mine who used to send me pictures of grand churches she ran across in her travels and I would always be so impressed and a little jealous, wondering why it seemed that every city in the world has beautiful churches but my own.  So I wrote to her complaining of the lack of beauty in my own city and she gently reminded me that Milwaukee is filled with glorious Catholic houses of worship.  Of course she's right and to prove it, here is my compilation of The Seven Most Beautiful Churches in Milwaukee:

St. Anthony's on Mitchell Street which is not only a beautiful church but it also wins my vote for the most beautiful Mass.  Every Sunday at 10 AM you will find the pews filled with large families, eight altar servers assisting the priest, a glorious choir, outstanding homilies, incense wafting through the air, everyone receiving communion on the tongue while kneeling at the altar rail, and a closing which includes the sung Salve Regina followed by the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.  It is perfection!  Check out the panoramic view here for a really great view of the church.

St. Anthony Church from the parish website
St. Anthony exterior photo credit:  Flickr

St. Joseph's Chapel inside the Motherhouse of the School Sisters of St. Francis  This is perhaps the best kept secret in Milwaukee!  The chapel is tucked inside a large brick convent/office building/nursing home.  Take some time to visit the many reliquaries stationed around the chapel.  An even better secret is the fabulously gorgeous adoration chapel in the back of the altar.  If you arrive for adoration at noon, you can observe the revolving door of the tabernacle open to reveal the monstrance for adoration.  Fabulous!  It is my all-time favorite place to adore the Lord.

St. Joseph Chapel photo credit:  Badger Catholic

Old St. Mary in downtown Milwaukee.  This lovely old church is only a few blocks away from the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.  Fairly large crowds attend the daily 7 AM and 12 noon Masses.  It's one of my favorite places for daily Mass and for praying the Stations of the Cross.

Photo Credit:  Flickr
Old St. Mary Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

The Basilica of St. Josephat  I will never get over the awe I feel when I think about the poor Polish immigrants who sacrificed and saved to build this most holy church.  Praying here always makes me feel small, as if I truly am surrounded by the grandeur of God and all of His heavenly angels and saints.  Maybe that's because of the fabulous dome! The Basilica is managed by the Conventual Franciscans and on Tuesday mornings after the 7 AM Mass they always pray a novena to St. Anthony and everyone is invited to come up and personally venerate his relic.

Interior of the Basilica of St. Josephat-image:  Tripadvisor
Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill  It's a bit of a drive from my house out to Holy Hill, but it is always worth the drive.  Not only is the church magnificent, but the Carmelites who manage the shrine always give amazing homilies.  The outdoor stations of the cross are a treat to pray on days when the weather is warm.

Photo Credit:  Holy Hill website
Photo credit:  Holy Hill Properties

St. Stanislaus Oratory  (Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest) Sadly, I haven't been to Mass here in over 20 years.  I believe it is the only church in the Milwaukee area where Mass is offered in the Extraordinary form every Sunday.  It's so close to my home that I really don't have an excuse for not attending Mass there more frequently.

Photo credit: Jay Filter Photography
Photo Credit:  Milwaukee Polonia Project
The Church of the Gesu On the Marquette University campus, Gesu is run by the Jesuits.  Daily Mass and confession is offered several times each day in the (not so beautiful)  lower church. Lately the church chimes have been ringing out the Salve Regina every noon which I find to be such a spiritual boost to the busy downtown neighborhood during the midday bustle.

Gesu interior photo credit:  Pixels to Prove It
Gesu Church photo credit:  Wikipedia

Which ones did I miss?  What are your favorite churches in Milwaukee and elsewhere?  The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is offering a free Steeplechase Pilgrimage on February 9th which includes a tour of some of the above churches.  Visit this link for more information.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Achieving Graciousness

"Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires."  ~John Newton

After coping with several unusually stressful situations beginning last summer and culminating near the end of the year, I found that I could no longer hold my head reasonably high and carry on  with a smile on my face but was, instead, caving to despair.  Unlike Job, when tested, I resorted to tears and anger instead of faithfully trusting in the Lord's providence and love for me.  I could not make myself say "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."  I was feeling pretty ugly.  I was acting even uglier.  I could not seem to summon up hope, trust or faith.  Prayer was practically non-existent.  The Holy Spirit must have been working overtime in my soul, praying for me along with my beautiful family and friends who are always so generous in prayer.

"The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."  ~Psalm 145:8

And then, through the example of several people who were graciously suffering through their own trials,  God showed me that it was not so much hope, trust or faith that I lacked, but rather it was graciousness that was in short supply in my disposition.

"To bear defeat with dignity, to accept criticism with poise, to receive honors with humility-these are marks of maturity and graciousness."  ~William Arthur Ward

The first example that God showed me was the beautiful witness of Ed and Lisa Slattery, the parents of four sons who have been coping with Ed's cancer diagnosis with bravery and joy.  This past Friday, some of their friends and family members hosted a fish fry benefit for the Slattery's that was attended by what seemed to be more than 1000 people who love and admire the family and wanted to help them.  Events like that cannot be successful for people who are stingy in the virtue of graciousness.  It was easy to see that Ed and Lisa abound in graciousness and it is returned to them in abundance.  You can read about Ed and Lisa's story of graciousness through suffering here in my previous post and here at the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

"Gracious words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."  ~Proverbs 16:24

The next example of graciousness came through the words of a child.  My daughter Mary plays sixth grade basketball.  After years of watching my four sons play, I am often struck by how vicious girls seem to play compared to boys.  In their efforts to steal the ball away from their opponent, girls do an excessive amount of grabbing, clawing, scratching and elbowing.  It's often as painful to watch as it must be to play.  In one of her most recent games, a girl on the opposing team was knocked down to the ground and sat there in pain, crying loudly as she held her shoulder.  It was thought that she might have dislocated the limb and she sat on the bench with an ice pack for the remainder of the game.  At the end of the hard-fought competition, my daughter's team lost the game.  And the girl who was injured walked over to my daughter and simply said, "Your team plays very well."  What a lovely example of gracious behavior!

"Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them."  ~Matthew 8:14-17

Finally, last weekend when my family and I attended Mass, I was deeply affected to see a friend who was sitting in front of me sobbing uncontrollably.  Several people, including the pastor, came to offer her words of comfort and prayer before Mass.  Two of her four children were participating in the liturgy, her thirteen-year-old daughter in the choir and her sixteen-year-old son assisting the little ones at the Children's Liturgy of the Word.  My friend was surrounded by family members who were holding her and crying with her.  It wasn't until the Prayer of the Faithful that I understood what was wrong.  At the prayer for those who have recently died, her husband's name was included.  After Mass, as many parishioners gathered around her to embrace her and offer condolences, she shared the fact that her husband had died the day before and they were all in a state of shock as his death was quite sudden and unexpected.  I couldn't help but be overcome by the graciousness of a family in grief, coming to Mass and worshiping with their parish, continuing in their acts of liturgical service, allowing those who love them to accompany them in their grief.  I thought of Peter's mother-in-law, who, once she was touched by Christ, continued in service to others despite her recent illness.  Joining with communal worship despite deep sorrow is gracious indeed.

"Realize that when you get older, you either get senile or become gracious.  There's no in-between.  You become senile when you think the world short-changed you, or everybody wakes up to screw you.  You become gracious when you realize that you have something the world needs, and people are happy to see you when you come into the room."  ~Carlos Santana

I am grateful for these examples of graciousness in difficulty and I pray that God will continue to convert my heart to graciousness so that like the Slattery family, the girl on the basketball team and the family in grief, I may always choose to be gracious to others, freely sharing my gifts and thereby reflecting my Christian faith and love for others despite any pain that may come my way.  After being witness to these examples of graciousness, I found that I could once again lean upon God in prayer, I could summon up the hope, trust and faith that I thought I lacked, and I learned that I, too, can be an example of graciousness for others.  The world is a beautiful place, full of blessings and the wonders of God. When we choose to focus on the good within life instead of the negative we can all become examples of His goodness and His graciousness to those around us. 

"The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." -Numbers 6:24-26

Monday, January 21, 2013

Here is God

"In life we do many things, say many things, but the voice of suffering offered out of love - which is perhaps unheard by and unknown to others - is the loudest cry that can penetrate Heaven" 
~Chiara Lubich

In my previous post I asked the question "Where are you God?"  I've since learned that when we ask a question of God we had better be prepared to hear an answer, for God did answer my question, not just in the quiet of my silent home at night, but also in a very profound way, through the witness of a faithful couple who are undergoing the effects of cancer and the changes that this diagnosis has brought to their lives.

My family is made up of early risers and we usually attend the 7:30 AM Mass on Sundays at our parish, but  my son John was asked to cantor at the 9 AM Mass this past weekend, so we all slept in a bit to attend the later Mass together.  The church was full of familiar faces that we hadn't see in many years since we started routinely attending the earlier Mass.

After Mass many of the worshipers headed down to the church hall for "Hospitality Sunday"  which is an opportunity to socialize with others while enjoying coffee and donuts.  On this particular Sunday, the Home and School Association was also sponsoring a hot ham and roll/bake sale to raise funds.

My family and I sat with some old friends that we hadn't seen in a while and we were enjoying catching up with each other.  Soon we were joined by our pastor, Fr. Dave, who had purchased some of the ham and rolls and was generously and lovingly serving it to my family.  It felt so good to be in the presence of family and friends, just relaxing and enjoying each other's company.  Then as the hall started to clear out a bit I saw them in the corner of my eye: Ed and Lisa Slattery, that is.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." ~Philipians 4:13

My family and I have known Ed and Lisa for the past ten years.  Ed has been the basketball coach for my sons, John and Jack, and they both learned so much under Ed's guidance.  We have spent many enjoyable hours sitting in the gym watching Ed pace back and forth and calling out "Bender! Bounce pass!" or "Bender!  Shoot!" or "Bender!  Dribble!"  Ed has devoted countless hours to teaching not only his own four sons, but many other boys as well, the skills necessary to play a good game of basketball, and there are many families, including my own, that are deeply grateful to him for selflessly sharing his passion for the sport with their sons.

But now Ed is in need of much prayer as he was diagnosed with cancer of the throat.  After initial treatments,  he was recently diagnosed for a second time.  It's a heartbreak not only for Ed and Lisa and their fine four sons, but also for everyone who knows Ed.

Paul and I had a blessed opportunity to sit and speak with them before heading out for the day.  Ed sat with a half-eaten donut that was too dry for him to manage to swallow since his face is now half-paralyzed.  His voice, barely audible, was a small echo of the robust shouts we remember hearing on the basketball court.

Lisa, a beautiful woman of great strength and deep love, spoke about the countless hours that they spend in doctor's offices these days.  She talked about how they scramble to get his medical care appointments arranged around both of their work schedules, the work that is more necessary than ever to pay for their medical bills. But they didn't only speak about Ed's health.  Both Ed's and Lisa's eyes just shone with pride as they spoke about their boys, particularly their two oldest who both attend UW-Madison.  Lisa, in particular, spoke of what a blessing it is to see that their Catholic faith still plays an important role in the  lives of her adult sons as the campus offers an abundance of opportunities available to them.

But her eyes quickly filled with tears as Ed showed us the gift that Lisa gave him for their most recent anniversary.  It was a ring that said "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  He mentioned that wearing it to work has allowed him to witness to the faith with his co-workers.  But Ed didn't dwell on his health for long before the conversation quickly turned to his passion, teaching boys to play basketball, and both Ed's and Lisa's faces lit up with joy.

As we sat and visited with Ed and Lisa, I was overcome with, not sadness, but joy.  It was so easy to see that this couple has accepted the cross which has been laid upon their shoulders and they see each day as an opportunity to care for each other and their children with love and grace.  So here was God, not just passing by but sitting directly across from me.  Here was God in this beautiful and strong and faith-filled couple.   Here He was, showing me what it means to trust, to hope and to love.  Here was God living in Ed and Lisa Slattery and here were Ed and Lisa witnessing to God's loving presence through their every word and action.  It was a moment of unmeasurable blessing.

There will be a benefit fish fry and silent auction to financially aid the Slattery family this Friday, January 25th at St. Florian's Parish in West Milwaukee from 5-10 PM.  Details are below.  If you are in the Milwaukee area, please consider attending to help this wonderful family.  And please, no matter where you are, will you offer a prayer for Ed's healing and for all of the family's needs during this difficult time?


Hundreds of young athletes from Milwaukee, West Allis, Whitnall, and Greenfield have benefited from the thousands of hours Coach Slattery has dedicated to them over the last 15 years.  Unfortunately Ed, Coach Slattery, has been diagnosed with cancer for a second time.  As he fights through this challenge Ed and his family can use our help.

If you know Ed, you know him as a committed coach, great co-worker, dedicated husband and proud father of four.

A benefit dinner and silent auction with DJ is planned to financially aid the Slattery family.

Come to:
St. Florian Parish
1233 South 45th Street Milwaukee, WI 53214
 (1 block North of Greenfield Ave. on 45th St.)
Friday January 25th, 2013
Benefit:  5:00 PM until 10:00 PM (FISH FRY 4 - 7)
Voted Best Fish Fry by the readership of the Catholic Herald

Donation: Adults $20.00 and Children $10.00 (12 & under)
Tickets available at the door 
All proceeds will benefit the Slattery family during Ed’s treatment and recovery.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Where Are You, God?

"And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out."~Mark 45:48-49

I can go through most of my busy days feeling confident in the presence of God.  I focus on the task at hand realizing that my work is a gift from God and I am returning that gift by using my time and my skills wisely.  I  intermittently pause to thank God for the smile of a baby, the embrace of my daughter, a glorious sunrise, a listening friend, or a hearty meal.  I am sure that He is with me in my sorrows and struggles, using these to draw me into a deeper dependence upon His grace regardless of how hard I might fight Him for a life of ease.  And so for the most part, life is good, isn't it?

But at night the torment begins.  I often fight my way through sleepless nights as anxiety about work to be done, problems left unsolved and my own sinfulness play havoc in my heart.  I lay awake and ask God, "Where are you?  Why can't I feel your comforting touch, your loving presence?  Why do I feel so alone, so unloved, so miserable?"  And the silence of a household peacefully asleep echoes depressingly in my heart.

I was recently struck by the Gospel passage from Mark 6:45-52 about the disciples struggling through a storm while out on the water.  There they were, doing what Jesus had told them to do, that is, get into the boat and head toward Bethsaida, and they end up caught in a big storm.  They feared for their very lives and rightly so for they were in grave danger.  And suddenly they see Jesus, who, we are told, meant to pass by them.  When I first considered that, it really bothered me.  Why would Jesus mean to pass them by?  Why wouldn't he go to them and help them immediately?  When I am feeling the storms of life and agonize over it during many slumberless nights, is Jesus simply passing by without stopping to help and is that why I suffer so much distress, I wondered?  But then I read this awesome explanation by Geoff Thomas at St. Alfred's Baptist Church in the UK and this passage made so much sense to me:

"We are told, "He was about to pass by them" (v.48). You might think that that meant Jesus was going to continue with his stroll across the lake passing by the boat, but that phrase in the Old Testament is charged with meaning. It is found where God makes himself known in an awesome appearance to his people. The men who led his work were fearful and uncertain about the future, and then God comes and he passes by them. There was an occasion at Mount Horeb the Lord "passed by" the prophet Elijah in the wind and the earthquake and the fire, and then in a still small voice spoke to him (I Kings 19:11). It lifted Elijah out of his suicidal frame. Again, before that, at Mount Sinai the same Lord in his glory passed by Moses at a time of perplexity in his life (Ex. 33:22), in order to reassure and reveal God's name. We are told, "He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin'" (Ex. 6&7). This same God is here passing by his troubled servants on the lake. That is why the Lord Jesus came walking on the water.

Our Creator, so majestic and awesome, there revealed himself to John and James and Peter and Andrew and the rest. Jehovah Jesus went passing by the towns of Galilee, and it was sight to the blind. "Jehovah Jesus is passing by!" and it was cleansing for the leper. "Jehovah Jesus is passing by!" and the deaf could hear. "Jehovah Jesus is passing by!" and the dead were raised. And to the men in the boat Jehovah Jesus came passing by and it was courage for fear, and peace for terror. His walking on the water was a revelation of that glory of God which he shared with the Father and with the Spirit. Mark is showing us that Jesus Christ who planted his footsteps in the sea is the incarnate Lord."  (source:read it all-it's fantastic!)

And as I lay awake fretting and worrying and wondering where God was in my anxiety, I realized that although I couldn't see Him or feel Him, He was most definitely passing by and I was not alone.  And I settled down and listened to my husband breathing deeply as he slept beside me and I realized, here was God, nestled within the heart of my husband, quietly showing me that peace was possible, that I had only to reach over and embrace Paul as he slept and I would be feeling the heart of God within him.  I had only to quiet my mind and allow the rhythms of my breath to fall in line with Paul's and I would soon discover the peace of a quiet sleep and my anxiety would be calmed.

Yes, Jesus had passed by me in my storm and, hearing my cries of distress, reached out to me in my need and I could almost hear him say, "Take courage!  It is I.  Don't be afraid."  (Mark 45:50) as He got into my boat with me and calmed my troubled soul.

"Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Etty Hillesum

I've been re-reading one of my favorite books, An Interrupted Life:  The Diary of Etty Hillesum.  Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jew who died in Auschwitz.  This book is her story in prayers and conversation with God written during the few years preceding her death. It's a tale that overflows with inspiration chronicling her journey to a deep and vibrant faith.  Despite the persecution that Etty not only witnessed, but also endured, she remained full of love and hope, never giving in to despair and bitterness over her fate.  What  a remarkable woman!  Here are some quotes that move my heart.  Hope they move yours, too...

"I love people so very terribly, because in every human being I love something of You."

"The jasmine behind my house has been completely ruined by the rains and storms of the last few days, its white blossoms are floating about in muddy black pools on the low garage roof. But somewhere inside me the jasmine continues to blossom undisturbed, just as profusely and delicately as it ever did. And it spreads its scent around the House in which You dwell, oh God. You can see, I look after You, I bring You not only my tears and forebodings on this stormy, grey Sunday morning, I even bring You scented jasmine."

"You are sure to go through some lean times with me now and then, when my faith weakens a little, but believe me, I shall always labor for you and remain faithful to You and I shall never drive You from my presence."

"And what those who say 'You live too intensely' do not know is that one can withdraw into a prayer as into a convent cell and leave again with renewed strength and with peace regained."

"And when the turmoil becomes too great and I am completely at my wits end, then I still have my folded hands and my bended is my most precious inheritance...the girl who learned to pray. That is my most intimate gesture, more intimate than even being with a man. After all, one can't pour the whole of one's love out over a single man, can one?" (*my favorite!)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


"In God we trust."  ~motto of the United States

It's the moment of new beginnings, the cusp of a new year, a time when everything is fresh and anything is possible.  I look back on the year just past and find that it was filled with struggle and challenges-what most people would see as opportunities for growth and learning. Unfortunately, my attitude was often one of complaint, grumble and cry.  Most often I felt like St. Teresa of Avila shaking my fist at God and crying, "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!"  It was far too easy for me to look on the bleak and dreary side of life instead of praising God for all of the varied blessings he bestowed upon me-blessings as simple as having a house to live in and food to eat and as glorious as waking to a beautiful sunrise and being surrounded by family and friends who love me so well despite how poorly I treat them in exchange for their unconditional love.

Each year since I began writing Imprisoned in my Bones, I have chosen a "word" for the year-something that would help me to focus on God and would help me to grow spiritually.  In the past I have chosen "surrender," "accept,"  "deeper," and "embrace."  It's hard to look back and notice whether or not I have actually lived those words throughout the years past, but I hope that in some small way, focusing on  those words has helped me to become just a bit more faithful to God and a bit more holy.  I've a long way to go as my failures to surrender to God's will and to not only accept it but to deeply embrace it have been glaringly obvious to me.  Instead it seems as if I have fought God and His will for me every step of the way. 

So when we fall the only thing we can do is get back up and try again, right?  My plan for 2013 appears to be just another step in the direction of coming to know and follow God's will.  The challenge is making God's will into my will as well.  I want to learn to rely on God's loving plan for me even when it's difficult to believe that He has my best interests at heart.  I want to be able to patiently watch to see how God's plan for my life will unfold.  And if His plan for this year includes suffering and hardships then I want to deeply embrace it, not with complaint, but with quiet surrender.  I want 2013 to be the year that I learn to completely TRUST in God and His will for my life. 

What follows is a reflection that I wrote for the Roses for Our Lady Christmas Newsletter:

"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…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…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." ~Caryll Houselander

The trust of a child. Our Lady embraced it, lived it, and exemplified it. Think of how she silently accepted the scandal of an unwed pregnancy, traveling across a desert on the back of a donkey while heavy with child never quite knowing where her destination would be, giving birth to the Son of God in a dirty stable with no one to help her, being visited by strangers at a moment when most people prefer the familiarity of family and friends, and then shortly after giving birth, having to get up and move to yet another strange land for the safety of her babe. She didn’t ask questions. She didn’t complain when she grew weary, when uncertainty was the motif of the day, when hunger gnawed at her stomach, when shelter and comfort were scarce, when danger and fear were abundant. She just said “Yes, God. Whatever you say; I am yours completely and live to serve You alone.”

Can we follow suit? Can we implicitly trust in God’s plans for our lives without ever fully knowing where He might be leading us or how He intends to use us? In the year ahead, can we accept trials and hardships with joy in our hearts, knowing that God’s plans are always perfect even though we often fail to understand how He might be working in our lives? Let’s make 2013 the year where we learn to trust like our Mother, to give our lives completely over to God and to turn to Him in prayer uniting our hearts with Blessed Mary more and more each day.


( I want to say a special thank you to Nancy Shuman at "The Cloistered Heart,"and "The Breadbox Letters," Patricia at "I Want to See God" and Mary at "The Beautiful Gate" for nominating Imprisoned in my Bones for the "Blog of the Year Award."  You ladies are all so sweet!  And I also offer a long overdue thank you to Karen at "Write to the Point" for awarding this blog with the "Liebster Award" back in October.  Thanks for being such faithful blogging friends!  It is beautiful blogs such as yours and those linked on my blog sidebar that inspire me to continue to write and to strive to trust in God more deeply.)