Monday, July 29, 2013

Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Sheboygan/Fr. Matthew Widder

my family with Fr. Matthew Widder after Mass
There's nothing quite so special as a Sunday drive, but what makes a Sunday road trip even more meaningful is when it's made to visit and pray with a wonderful friend.  My family and I made the one hour trip up north to Sheboygan, Wisconsin to attend Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, the new home of our dear friend, Fr. Matthew Widder.  Holy Name and St. Clement Parish's newest pastor is beginning his first pastor assignment just three years out of seminary, and it looks like he's off to a fantastic start.  Both Holy Name of Jesus and St. Clement Parishes are absolutely beautiful churches and Fr. Matthew was all smiles during the Mass we attended in a fully packed church.  It's clear to see that he loves being a priest.  He offered a fabulous homily regarding what a privilege it is to pray and the importance of keeping our connection with God through persistence in prayer.  Ever deeply devoted to the Blessed Mother, Fr. Matthew concluded Mass with the Hail Mary. 

Holy Name and St. Clement Parishes have made prayer cards for Fr. Matthew with the following prayer:

Lord God, in your loving kindness you sent your Son to be our shepherd and guide  Continue to send workers into your vineyard to sustain and direct your people.  Bless Father Matthew.  Let your Spirit uphold him always as he takes up his new responsibility among the people of this parish.  Amen.

If you live in Sheboygan, you are blessed!  And if you don't live in Sheboygan but have a chance to visit, be sure to stop in and pray with Fr. Matthew and spend some time on your knees connecting with God in one of Sheboygan's gorgeous churches.   You'll be glad you did!

St. Joseph in the Courtyard
My friend and namesake, St Anne, and the Blessed Mother greet parishioners in the narthex

Isn't He sweet?

St. Michael the Archangel in the narthex

and St. Michael the Archangel above the entrance to the church

my blurry pictures don't do justice to the beauty...

The Twelfth Station-Jesus Dies on the Cross

the adoration chapel

a collection of chalices in the narthex

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Abandonment to Divine Providence

Mary, an adorable boating captain and philosopher

Mary, my daughter, wanted to take me out in the row boat at my sister's cottage on Schisel's Lake in Manitowoc County.  I was a bit hesitant, nervous that we might become entangled in the weeds that circle the edges of the lake.  Mary looked at me with that smart look all twelve-year-old girls are capable of and simply said, "Mom!  Trust God!"  I reminded her that she is not God to which she retorted, "No, but I'm God's daughter, so trust me!"  I did and we had a lovely time.

As Mary did the hard work of rowing, I shared my favorite passage from the book I am currently reading, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, with her.  When I finished reading, Mary, who had been listening very closely, chided me with, "See, Mom!  That passage was meant for you. Trust God, that's all you have to do!"  How simple she makes it seem, boiling down what in my eyes is a complex spiritual discipline, that is, trying to abandon myself to God's will, to the joy of relaxing on a boat ride on a small, rural lake.  My daughter, the spiritual master!

"Fools that we are!  We admire and bless this divine action in the writings relating its history, and when it is ready to continue this writing on our hearts, we keep moving the paper and prevent it writing by our curiosity, to see what it is doing in and around us.  Pardon, Divine Love, these defects; I can see them all in myself, for I am not yet able to understand how to let You act.  So far I have not allowed myself to be cast into the mould.  I have run through all Your workshops and have admired all Your works, but have not, as yet,by abandonment, received even the bare outlines of Your pencil.   Nevertheless I have found in You a kind Master, a Physician, a Father, a Beloved Friend.

I will now become Your disciple, and will frequent no other school than Yours.  Like the prodigal son I return hungering for Your bread.  I relinquish the ideas which tend only to the satisfaction of mental curiosity; I will no longer run after masters and books but will only make use of them as of other things that present themselves, not for my own satisfaction, but in dependence on the Divine action and in obedience to You.  For love of You and to discharge my debts I will confine myself to the essential business, that of the present moment, and thus enable You to act."
~from Abandonment to Divine Providence

Schisel's Lake from the cottage

Jack angling for a nibble

Mary and Jack

a view of the cottage from the boat

wild flowers

a wild onion

A wild dog?  No!  It's Marley, my sister's adorable dog.
I love Schisel's Lake!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fr. Jan Kieliszewski-Rest in Peace

Last week, on a day with particularly beautiful weather, I decided to hang the wash on the line in the backyard.  For some reason, as I was pinning the clothes to the line, I was overcome with melancholy, a deep sadness that was very familiar to me from my past experience with depression.  The sorrow seared deep within me and I had no idea where it came from or what it was about.  There was absolutely no reason on earth why I should be feeling so down at that particular moment.  I went inside and wrote an email to a friend asking for prayers.

As I hit the "send" button, my daughter Mary came downstairs, and with her 12 years of sweetness, she threw her arms around my neck and embraced me for the longest time.  I asked her how she knew that I needed a hug at that particular moment and she simply said, "I could just feel it."  I knew that my daughter and her loving, impulsive action was an immediate answer to that prayer request I sent out.  My daughter is a joyful Godsend in my life.  But not everyone is blessed with a daughter who intuitively knows when they are needing a little extra love.

Last year in my candidacy for the Oblates of the Precious Blood, I corresponded monthly with Mother Marietta from the Handmaids of the Precious Blood.  In one particular letter she told me that if I ever feel tempted to something that was very unusual for me, I could know that at that particular moment, a priest somewhere in the world was being tempted with the same thing, and I should pray for him.  My struggling to overcome the things that tempt me can help priests in their temptations.  That's a powerful thought; that I could help a priest that I may never know to grow in holiness by offering up my sacrifices for him.

Last weekend, just before Sunday Mass was to begin, Fr. Jan Kieliszewski, a priest whom I did not know here in Milwaukee, committed suicide in his church.  No one in the Archdiocese can offer any explanation as to why this man, in his mid-sixties, who gave his life over to the service of the Lord and His Church, would have taken his life.  It was shocking and deeply sad news that has rocked our already distressed Archdiocese.

I can't help but wonder if I had offered up my melancholy on that recent laundry day if it would it have helped this priest in some way?  What if, in that moment when sorrow hit me hard, I would have remembered to tell God, "I give you this pain for the priest who most needs your help at this moment, for a priest who is feeling the pangs of despair" if that might have prompted Fr. Jan to reach out for help and thereby find a way to stay alive until God naturally called him home?

Of course, I'll never know the answer to that question.  But as an Oblate of the Precious Blood, I am committed to praying for priests, to offering all that I am for their sanctity, and if I didn't pray enough for priests before Fr. Jan's suicide, I am committed to praying for them more than ever now.  And I am committed to lightening their load by offering them loving encouragement and gratitude, and helping them in their valuable and necessary work in any small or large way that I can.

Fr. Jan's name was on the Monthly Prayer Request for Priests calendar on June 18th, and all of Milwaukee was asked to pray for him on that day.  My family and I did our part and we prayed for him, as we pray daily for every priest on the calendar when we gather as a family for dinner.  And now, I will be praying for Fr. Jan's soul every day for the rest of my life, as well as for the souls of all priests, those living, as well as those deceased.  Will you join me, and pray for priests as well?  May Fr. Jan, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, eternally embraced in the ever-loving arms of his Father.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Crown of Thorns

It's blackberry season again.  This time of year you will often find me in my backyard blackberry patch gathering the black jewels for my family to enjoy.  I inherited all of my blackberry bushes from my dad when Paul and I bought our house 21 years ago.  Dad transplanted the bushes to our garden from his own. Blackberry season is filled with loving childhood memories of my dad who was truly a master gardener far better than I could ever hope to be.  It's seven years ago this month since my dad passed away.  I pray that he and Jesus are reveling in a blackberry feast in heaven.  Here's a post from the archives about this luscious fruit:

Standing in the hot sun, plucking the dark, plump blackberries from the canes and dreaming of the treats I might create with the fruit, I carelessly turn and catch my bare arm on the thorns.

I call out in pain and pull a thorn from my skin. I watch the blood gush out in a bright, red drop.

Didn’t he tell me to wear long sleeves while picking berries, as he dug the heirloom canes from the ground for me to transplant into my garden?  I rarely listened to him when I was young, and now that I am not so young I still fail to listen to the sound of his memory in my mind.

But now, my thoughts wander back to a garden long ago, a garden rich and lush with berries in abundance.  There he stood; my father, long sleeves regardless of the heat, picking those berries
day in and day out,until the canes were picked clean, and then gently carrying hispurple treasures to the kitchen where they would be quickly eaten.

But another man didn’t enjoy sweet berries after enduring the pain of thorns.  He wore those thorns tightly wrapped against his head with no one to pull them out when he cried in pain. There was only a stranger, a lovely, gentle woman, who kindly offered her veil to dry his blood.

He carried those thorns with him to his death and was only offered the bitter taste of gall to quench his deep thirst; a taste He refused, as the taste of our sin that filled his mouth was all the bitter He could bear.

Oh sweet Jesus,

how I wish You could have known the flavor of fresh summer-picked blackberries instead of the bitter gall of our sin.

And how I wish I would refrain from complaining when the thorns grab hold of my skin.

I want so much to be brave and strong like You,
to wear my crown of thorns without complaint.

For I know that when I do you will be holding out my reward,
a treasure sweeter than any berry, a life of eternal joy with you
in your heavenly garden.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Holy Images

I woke to the sound of my own screams, grateful that the shouting was from a dream and not reality. Trying to shake the images of the nightmare from my mind, I rubbed my bleary eyes and then took a good look at myself in the bathroom mirror.  I noted that my girth and my age are all too evident lately and  I couldn't help but grumble about being scared awake only to confront my constant battle against my pride and vanity.  My day didn't seem to be starting on a very good note.  On my way to Mass I reminded myself that God loves me as I am and told myself to continue to work on being nice on the inside so that it might combat my distaste for my outward appearance.

After Mass, as I knelt before the crucifix, I realized that right before me I was seeing the ultimate in horror and humility-Jesus tortured, not in a dream but in reality, and humiliated, not because He was uncomfortable with how he looked, but because His pride was physically stripped away from Him.  I was not alone. Surely, I could unite the minor irritations that began my day to His suffering and bring some good from it.

I arrived at work and the first client I met was wearing large sunglasses even though it was not bright and sunny inside the WIC Clinic.  As we began to discuss the eating habits of her four-year-old son while her well-behaved children sat quietly waiting, I heard her sniffling and when I looked closely, I noticed tears running down her face behind those sunglasses.  I handed her a box of kleenex and she apologized for crying as she removed her sunglasses to reveal tear-soaked and tired eyes.  I'm not the only one wanting to hide the parts of me that are less than flattering.

Then she told me that her mother had suddenly died of a heart attack last week while babysitting for her children.  Her mom had kept the children overnight and nobody had discovered her death until the next day.   Her children had been alone in the house with their dead grandmother and were now unable to sleep at night from the trauma of that experience.  She went on to say that the funeral would be the next day and she was overwhelmed from all that she had to do.  She pointed to the picture on my desk of Our Lady of Guadalupe and said that it was seeing Mary on my desk that brought out her tears.  The image of a tender and loving mother allowed this woman to release her pent-up grief, if only for a moment, and brought about some much needed compassion and prayers from this listener.

Those holy images of our Lord and His Mother do so much good in this world.  Every time we glance upon their loving countenance we can't help but be changed for the better.  How blessed we are to have the continual love of Jesus and Mary to surround our hearts as we make our way through our days filled with both minor aggravations and major sorrows.  Their images are a balm that remind us that not only that we are greatly loved by them, but also that we are called to love others as they love us.  Jesus and Mary are always with us!  Let's do all we can to share them with others in all we say and do!

Monday, July 22, 2013

St. Mary Magdalene

The feast of St. Mary Magdalene is one of my favorites.  I've always wanted to model my life after this beautiful and holy woman; that is, I want to love much.  I recently learned that during the course of the last seventy years, it was realized that the seven demons that Jesus cast out from St. Mary Magdalene was actually referring to His curing her depression and anxiety, not the prostitution that is usually attributed to her. As one who has deeply struggled with those same mental illnesses, the knowledge that we have this commonality makes me love her even more.

Here's a treat from my favorite local poet, Jessica Powers, aka Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD, in honor of this special Feast Day:

God is a Strange Lover

God is the strangest of all lovers;
His ways are past explaining.
He sets His heart on a soul:  He says to Himself, “Here will I rest my love.”

But he does not woo her with flowers or jewels or words that are set to music,
No names endearing, no kindled praise His heart, direction prove.
His jealousy is an infinite thing, He stalks the soul with sorrow;
He tramples the bloom; He blots the sun that could make her vision dim.
He robs and breaks and destroys-there is nothing at last but her own shame, her own affliction,
And then He comes and there is nothing in the vast world but Him and her love of Him.

Not till the great rebellions die and her will is safe in His hands forever
Does He open the door of light and His tenderness fall,
And then for what is seen in the soul’s virgin places,
For what is heard in the heart, there is no speech at all.

God is a strange lover; the story of His love is most surprising,
There is no proud queen in her cloth of gold; over and over again.
There is only, deep in the soul, a poor dishelved woman weeping….

For those who have need of a picture and words:  the Magdalen.

And something I've shared before from Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP, the founder of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, and my spiritual father:

To Saint Mary Magdalene

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Old St. Mary

My family and I recently left the large suburban parish where we had been members for 21 years.  It wasn't an easy decision to make; it took us ten years (seriously) and it involved much prayer and discussion.  But over the course of the last few years, worship there felt more distracted than prayerful.  It was time to find a new church to call home.

After a year of church shopping, we finally found our new home downtown at Old St. Mary, the oldest church in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  The church is so beautiful that it's impossible for me to become distracted for long; there's always a statue, painting or stained glass window to draw my attention back to the Lord.  The rich history of prayer and beauty within the walls of the church help me to deeply know the Lord's presence and peace whenever I spend time in prayer at Old St. Mary. I've been attending the daily 7 AM Mass there for the past six months and that experience has been so spiritually uplifting for me that I easily get out of bed early in the morning eager for worship.  It's the highlight of my day!

Photo credit:  The Badger Catholic

The rat race on the freeway is just kicking into gear as Milwaukeean's begin their daily commute.  I leave the frantic pace of the road and enter into the reverent hushed silence of the intimate church where 30-40 early morning worshipers are gathered.  The priest and lector/acolyte enter from the sacristy with a ring of the sacristy chimes.  The Mass is quick, lasting only 20 minutes without a homily, allowing those who work downtown to make it to work on time.  The sweet sound of the sacristy chimes and the church bells, named Mary, Mary Anna and Mary Magdalen, mark the early morning hours as they ring out, calling all to worship. The acolyte also rings the sanctus bells at consecration reminding all of those present about the importance of reverencing Christ on the altar and adding a little bit of joyful noise to this holy moment.

Following Mass, it is not unusual for many of those gathered at Old St. Mary to remain on their knees in silent prayer for 15-30 minutes.  Sometimes by the time I leave for work I find that the others have all gone with the exception of Willy, the sweet, old man who sits in the back row, day after day, frequently sleeping. Willy always seems to be there silently keeping the Lord company every day, and whenever I stop to say hello he reminds me that he prays for me.  I think of him as my guardian angel watching over me while I pray each day.

Photo Credit:  Cream City Catholic

Now that my family has formally joined the parish, we were quick to volunteer.  We spent an enjoyable Saturday morning helping at the Riverwest Food Pantry.  Lisa, who heads up the food pantry, joyfully showed us the ropes and we even had time to take a long look around St. Casimir Church where the food pantry is located.  St. Casimir is equally as gorgeous as Old St. Mary.  There are so many hidden treasures in this city!  At the food pantry we met many wonderful and interesting people, and enjoyed long conversations with some of them as we walked them home helping to carry their groceries.  We are all looking forward to taking many more turns giving of our time in this way.

In my dull little life, it doesn't take much to give me a thrill.  When I offered to help clean the church on Thursday mornings before work, I was introduced to Christina, a wonderful woman who heads up this job and who is as kind and friendly as can be.  She quickly set me to work cleaning windows, holy water fonts, and the candle lighters/snuffers.  It's a little thing, but I loved it!  After all, it's those little details that often mean the most in life.  It's a great honor for me to help in some small way to keep this magnificent church clean.

Photo Credit:  Arise Milwaukee

It's always a bit nerve-wracking when you do something for the first time, isn't it?  Although I'd been a lector at my former parish for the past five years, I was nervous on the day when I was to read for the first time at Old St. Mary.  When I stepped into the sacristy, I saw a statue of St. Anne and my nerves were immediately reduced having that physical reminder that my patron saint was nearby keeping an eye on things.  I was more than pleased when Fr. Tim Kitzke, the pastor, joined the lectors and servers in the sacristy and led us in a pre-Mass prayer.  I had never experienced anything like that before, but it makes sense, doesn't it, to pray before you lead others in prayer?  Fr. Tim's jovial and energetic style includes homilies so memorable that my family and I discuss them days after we hear them.  His most recent homily about the Good Samaritan focused on how to get out of the pits of life, and help others out of the pits as well, by focusing on the three "E's":  Empathy, Empowerment and the Eucharist.  I always love a homily that includes our Eucharistic Lord!

Although it took my family years of discussion and debate before leaving our old parish and joining a new one, I am as happy as can be to have finally made the switch.  Everyone at Old St. Mary is so very friendly, welcoming and warm, from Daisy, the darling parish secretary, to Ken, the Director of Religious Education and David, the Director of Liturgy, to Nick, who keeps the physical buildings in tip-top shape, to the priests, volunteers, fellow parishioners and the old man in the back row. I've found nothing but joy and warmth throughout the parish.  And when it's time for worship, they are deeply faithful and serious about giving glory to God with love and respect and reverence.  My faith feels refreshed and alive.  I wish every Catholic could feel this joy about belonging to a parish and attending Mass.  Our parishes would be full and our Lord would be pleased, of that I'm certain!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lumen Fidei

I love this picture, don't you?

Have you read Lumen Fidei, the encyclical written with four hands, yet?  I confess that I was a bit distracted trying to figure out which part was written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and which was written by our current pontiff, Francis.  I decided that the last chapter was completely Francis because it seemed so easy to read and I found so much inspiration in it, although the whole document was fabulous.  Here's what I loved the most:

"Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness." 

"Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters."

"Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light." 

You can read the whole thing here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Heartbroken Love

"This is the meaning of the cross:  God is heartbroken love."  ~Fr. Robert Barron

"We can never pass a crucifix with indifference because there we see Jesus with His head bent to kiss us,  His arms outstretched to hold us, and His feet nailed fast to pardon our sins."  ~Bishop Donald Hying

Here in Milwaukee the Church has been struggling through some particularly difficult times in recent weeks.  Our Archdiocese is in the process of filing for bankruptcy and as part of the proceedings we had to publish the complete records of all of the cases of priests who have abused minors in the Archdiocese going back 80 years.  My understanding of the purpose of revealing the details of these cases is that  it would help with healing.  For my part, I don't get it.  I was only able to look at one record before I was so sick to my stomach and to my heart that I had to close the file and couldn't bear to look at another one.  I don't understand how reading through the grim details of child sexual abuse could help anyone heal.  For me, hearing about these cases in the news once again only served to increase my pain and sorrow.

During the summer season my family and I have been blessed to attend several graduation parties and other social events.  Sooner or later the topic of discussion inevitably has come around to the release of these records and the outrage that many feel against the Church because of this horrific black mark that is forever laid upon our shoulders.  Time and again people have told me that they have stopped going to church because of the abuse scandal and they won't return until the Church straightens up her act.  No matter what the hierarchy do to apologize, pay victims financially, and work toward assuring these situations never happen again, it's never enough.  Forgiveness is hard to come by.  The saddest comment I heard from a formerly active Catholic was  "God and I are tight.  I don't need the Church-that's only people."

What makes me really sad is not just that the Church is losing out on some really great people in the pews, but that Jesus is losing out on the faithful worship that is His due.  I think it's easy for some to forget that God lives within all of those people who make up the Church.  God lives within all of those good and holy priests whose ministry is made so much more difficult by bearing the burden of those wayward priests whose sins against children caused so much damage.  And most of all, God lives in the Eucharist inside the tabernacle.  How He must long for the company of all of those who are allowing their anger to keep them away!

So this sexual abuse scandal, these tragic, heinous, appalling circumstances, have convinced me that my presence is needed more than ever within the walls of the Church.  My prayers of love and worship, my acts of atonement, my silent company, and my daily living of my Catholic faith as a witness to the world helps to bring a bit of joy to Christ's sorrowful Heart.  For who was hurt by the abusive priests more than Jesus Himself who lives within the souls of each and every child victim and within the abusive priests themselves as an alter Christus.  How completely crushed with pain it must make Him feel to endure this situation.

I look up at the cross and I see the nail marks, the wounds in His side, the thorns pressing into His head and I am overcome with the realization that He did this for me.  He did this for me and for all of His children, sinners that we are.  And when we allow our anger to keep us away from Him we only intensify His suffering.  If we could only unite our suffering with His in fidelity to prayer and Mass attendance, then, perhaps, we could all find the healing that we so desperately seek.

I remember His words to St. Margaret Mary, "Behold this Heart which has so loved men."  I remember His plea to her to work to draw others closer to His Sacred Heart and I am convinced that I must do all I can to love Him more and to spend more and more time in prayer with Him in my own small effort to atone for all that He suffers.   I ask you to join me in giving more of your life to Him.  Come to Mass every Sunday and even daily if you can.  Receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist with all of the love that is in your heart.  Spend some time in adoration.  Give loving care to those around you in His name.  Confess your own sins and receive His blessed absolution.  Give Him your love and attention.  Help to heal His broken Heart.

Our Lord's words to St. Margaret Mary:

“It is the ingratitude of men which has hurt Me more than all the suffering I underwent during My Passion. If only they would make some return for My love, I should think but little of all I have done for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more. But the sole return they make for all My eagerness to do them good is to reject Me and treat Me with coldness. Do thou at least console Me by supplying for their ingratitude as far as thou art able.”
“Behold this Heart, Which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt which they show Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me, that treat Me thus...”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Three Reasons I Love Catholicism Vol. 3 and 4

I missed this link-up last month but I'm determined not to let that happen again.  When I miss out on sharing  what I love about Catholicism, I miss out on so much joy!  I'm so grateful to Micaela at California to Korea for hosting this great link-up.  Visit her blog for so many more highlights of our fabulous Catholic faith!  Here's what my Catholic heart is reveling in this month:

St. Francis preaches to the birds
1.  Saints:  How much we learn from striving to follow their holy example and from contemplating the treasures contained in their words!  My favorites are St. Jane de Chantal, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Philomena, St. Maria Goretti, St. Margaret Mary, St. Veronica, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph and (soon to be!) St. Pope John Paul.

"But, alas, what is there to the joys of this life?  There is nothing solid in them and they pass away like a dream.  I cannot understand how a heart that seeks God and wants to love Him can relish any pleasure outside of Him."  ~St. Margaret Mary

2.  Sacramentals:  I'm very tactile oriented;  I have to touch and feel things.  So I love to dip my fingers into holy water and lavishly bless myself with it, leaving the tell-tale water marks to slowly evaporate upon my forehead and shirt.  Lighting a blessed candle and watching my prayer flicker toward heaven, knowing that it will continue to burn strong until all of the wax is melted, moves me deeply.  Fingering the rosary beads, or letting my thumb and forefinger frequently, and often absentmindedly, find the crucifix and medals that hang around my neck brings me comfort.  Through these sacramentals, I feel that my soul touches a bit of heaven each day.

3.  Prayer Postures:  Again, it's the tactile thing.  Knees bent, hands folded, head bowed, sign of the cross made with right hand moving over my head, heart and shoulders-these are the actions that help me feel the presence of God in a more tangible way, and that allow me to show my devotion to God with my whole body and soul.  When I attend Mass at a church where the kneelers have been removed and the people in the congregation stand instead of kneeling, I feel a bit robbed of the power of my prayer.  Kneeling, to me, is a necessity.  One of my favorite quotes comes from my sister, Sharen, who defends kneeling as opposed to standing.  She says,  "Kneeling is half-standing."  Amen to that!

Friday, July 5, 2013

They Leave You God

In rifling through the memories contained in my old prayer journals, I came across a few treasured quotes on God and prayer that are too good to keep to myself:

“Unlike our bodily needs, which can all be satisfied, prayer will never satisfy our spiritual need.  In prayer we only discover that our need for prayer goes on and on and on.  We have to learn to be perpetually dissatisfied.  But we can learn that this is what gives our lives that without which we could not otherwise live.  For we have learnt to dwell not on ourselves but on God.”  ~From Deep Calls to Deep by David Foster, OSB

“I have a lovely habit:  at night in my prayers I touch everyone I have seen that day; I shape my heart like theirs and theirs like mine.”  ~St. Teresa of Avila

 “I think God might be a little prejudiced.  For once He asked me to join Him on a walk through this world and we gazed into every heart on this earth, and I noticed that He lingered a bit longer before any face that was weeping and before any eyes that were laughing.  And sometimes when we passed a soul in worship, God too, would kneel down.  I have come to learn:  God adores His creation.”  ~St. Francis of Assisi

“I need to know, we tell ourselves.  No, God answers softly, you need to trust.”  ~Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

"Keep silent:  smile quietly when a treasured trifle is taken from you and causes you pain.  When things go of themselves, let them go-they leave you God."  ~A Carthusian

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Parade of Emotions

Enjoy a re-run from three years ago in honor of our country's birth:

There's just something about a summer parade that makes me very emotional. Maybe it's the combination of warm weather and relaxing with my family that brings down my defenses and lets my true feelings show.

Most parades start with the American flag and our veterans who so proudly served our country. Witnessing these brave men and women, and all of the people honoring their commitment to America by standing with their hands over their hearts always begins a flow of tears from my eyes as my heart tugs with a mix of pride and love.

The tears are soon wiped away as Santa appears in Bermuda shorts with a gaudy, artificial white Christmas tree and shouts out "I'm watching you!" He's followed by bubble blowing men wearing Hawaiian grass skirts who are joined by several silly clowns. How can I not smile at these delightful people?

Then the tears start again when a truck appears with several elderly men sitting in the back wearing white shirts and black ties enjoying some of their favorite polka tunes. I am reminded of my dad and his love for polkas. It was in this season of summer that his earthly life passed into eternity.

But tears easily turn to laughter when a fire truck drives by and squirts the sun-baked crowd with water hoses. Even more laughter erupts when the crowd begins to throw water balloons at the firemen! But the best gut-wrenching laugh comes when a water balloon misses its target and hits my brother-in-law right in the stomach!

Here come the tears again as a convertible car drives by transporting a beautiful girl in an evening gown with a sash and crown and I hear my daughter Mary call out "You're pretty!"  The sweet honesty of little children always brings out my sentimental side.

Back to the smiles as a float arrives with a young rock band wailing out an angst filled song. Their long hair that hides their faces cannot hide the fact that their heads bang back and forth to the music and I notice my teenage sons following the band with their eyes all the way down the street with looks of jealousy on their faces.

Something about the antique fire trucks with their sirens blaring sends a chill through my body in spite of the heat of the day and the tears fill my eyes once again. Laughter returns when the clerks from the local grocery store march past pushing grocery carts filled with (what else?) water balloons!

The tears of National Pride are turned back on again as the High School Marching Band passes by blaring out "America the Beautiful" on their horns and drums. It causes goose bumps to appear on my arms and I absentmindedly rub them to bring some warmth back to my body even though I am standing in the blazing sun.

Delight resumes when the children cry "CANDY"! and scramble to collect the treats that are thrown at their feet. Mary has the spirit of sharing as she throws a few pieces back to my husband and I, who are just a couple of big kids at heart when it comes to candy.   And what kind of treat does the Natural Food Store give out? Why fresh daisies, of course!

The parade is complete with horses and cowboys, antique cars and historical costumes. My family packs up our chairs, blankets and candy (please don't forget the candy!) and drive home with satisfied smiles on our faces and warm feelings in our hearts.

I realize that the parade is like life, an absurd mix of joys and sorrows, side by side, one after the other. And somehow, it seems right that parades and life should be this blend of ups and downs. God created our lives to be connected with others, we are meant to share our joys and sorrow standing side by side in our community. We strengthen each other in our sorrow and laugh with each other in our joy. I thank God for summertime parades of emotion and lifelong journeys of emotion as well. Joy and sorrow belong together just as naturally as we all belong to God. I love and embrace this contradiction, this joy and sorrow intertwined. I am thankful for this lifelong mingling of emotion that draws us closer to one another and closer to God.