Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bay Beach Amusement Park

It's been a long summer for my youngest teens.  With both parents and the older teens working, the summer days grew long and dull for them.  They were forced to entertain themselves with creative (and dangerous) little activities such as mattress surfing down the stairs, practicing cartwheels and handstands in the living room, and taking selfies while hanging upside down on the furniture.

Their mother, too, was showing signs of becoming summer stir-crazed as well, spending her spare time cutting out paper doll sisters just for the fun of it as if she had nothing better to do with her time.  But they are terribly sweet, aren't they?

It seems it was time for a badly needed vacation.  So I took a few days off work at the end of summer for some family fun including a day of delight at  Bay Beach Amusement Park  in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Bay Beach has been in continuous operation since 1892 and is the 9th oldest amusement park in the United States.

A summer day at Bay Beach is a family tradition going back to my own childhood.  My parents would take my eight siblings and I there every summer to enjoy the ten cent rides. And today Bay Beach remains an extremely reasonable family destination.  There is no admission fee, the parking is free, they boast fabulous picnic grounds with lots of playground equipment, and the price for rides is a very low twenty-five to fifty cents each! My family of seven can play all day for under $40!

My original intention for our end of the summer trip to Green Bay was to stop at Our Lady of Good Help Shrine in Champion, for Mass, but the first Mass of the day wasn't until 11:30 AM, so we chose to attend the 7 am Mass at our parish, Old St. Mary in Milwaukee, and then we made the two hour drive and arrived at the park just before it opened for the day.  All of the lines for the rides were short allowing us plenty of time to ride our favorites, like the bumper cars and the scrambler, again and again.  As we watched all of the many people at the park with near-constant smiles on their faces, my daughter remarked, "This is THE place for fun!"

In the last few years, the park has added the Zippin Pippin Roller Coaster for the low price of one dollar per ride.  It looked pretty tame as far as roller coasters go, so I was eager to give it a try.  I don't know what I was thinking.  It was horribly scary!  Whenever I'm afraid, I turn to my Mother for support.  As I took my seat and pulled the safety bar down, I began to pray the Hail Mary silently.  As the roller coaster took the first plunge down, my silent prayer became a scream.  I was praying, "Haaaaaillll Mary, FULL OF GRACE, the Lord is WITH THEE!!!!"  throughout the entire duration of the ride.  I'm sure that the Blessed Mother heard that prayer all the way at her Shrine in Champion even though we didn't actually go there!

We finished off our end of summer day of delight with a stop in my hometown, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, for a visit to the world's best and most charming candy store and ice cream shop, Beerntsen's Confectionery.  The long days of summer may be drawing to an end, but our memories of family fun  at Bay Beach will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

For your own virtual taste of the Zippin Pippin, visit this link or watch the video at the end of this post. 

Jack and Mary by the Bay

Never too old for the classic helicopter!

Let's fly away!

the swings

a selfie on the train

love the carousel

Zippin Pippin Rollercoaster

outside the arcade

Beernsten's Confectionery

the inside of sweetness


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Turtledoves of Prayer

Happy Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary!  

In honor of Our Lady on her special day please enjoy the article I wrote for the August 2013 Roses for Our Lady newsletter.

Turtledoves of Prayer

“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” ~ Luke 2:22-24

Whenever I pray the fourth joyful mystery of the rosary, the Presentation, I am usually struck by Simeon’s words to Mary regarding the sword that would pierce her heart, and I focus on that in my prayer.  But recently, that pair of turtledoves has been capturing my attention.  The turtledoves, a humble gift from the Blessed Mother, given from her poverty in joyful obedience to the law, represented a sacrificial offering.

Like our Mother Mary, we also have a humble gift to offer; the gift of our prayer.  Our prayer often stems from our poverty, as well, for aren’t we all poor when it comes to prayer?  We pray imperfectly, with distractions, much talking and little listening, often grudgingly giving of our time for the Lord.

But when we present our prayer to Mary, giving our petitions of need and sorrow, our words of gratitude and praise, and our promises of love within the Hail Mary, the Salve Regina or the Memorare, she takes that offering, like a lowly turtledove, and gives it to God for us.  Her love adds strength to our prayer causing the Lord’s heart to bend with favor toward us.

May we never fail to continually present our turtledoves of prayer to the Blessed Mother, asking her to offer them to Jesus on our behalf.  Please join Roses for Our Lady at our monthly holy hour for vocations on a regular basis.  Our united turtledoves of prayer can do so much good in our Archdiocese!  I look forward to praying with you!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Soul Scrubbed

Loving Jesus,

My soul is dirty, 
filled with the clutter of old sins 
and the baggage of attachments 
that I have held on to 
for far too long. 

My inability to let go of the past 
has been weighing me down 
and keeping You at a distance. 

But now, 
I am willing to let You into 
all of the dark corners 
where the dust and cobwebs 
of my transgressions reside.  

Cleanse my soul, 
sweet Savior. 

Scrub me clean with Your forgiveness, 
remove my hurt 
with the promise of Your tender mercy, 
haul away my wickedness 
and absolve me with Your fragrance of love. 

Polish my soul. 

Restore it to the beauty,
goodness and light 
for which it was created.  

Then, take off Your apron 
and make Yourself at home 
in my spotless soul.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Funeral Envy

Throughout my life, whenever someone has hurt or rejected me, I get even by fantasizing about my future funeral.  I picture scads of people talking about how much they love me and how wonderful I am, and there is the offending party in deep anguish, saying, "If only I had been nicer to her when she was alive!  If only she were here so I could tell her how much I love her and how sorry I am for having hurt her!"  It's my imaginary way of building up my wounded pride, I suppose, and I admit that I take more than a bit of comfort from it.  It's definitely a self-esteem booster.

But in reality, I really do have the perfect funeral planned out in my mind.  When I die, I want Roses for Our Lady to lead the congregation in the rosary right before the Mass.  Panis Angelicus, Ave Maria, and Pie Jesu have to be sung.  And years ago I made up my mind that I want three priests to concelebrate and they must all cry because when my aunt Monica died three priests all cried for her at her funeral.  I thought that was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

With each funeral that I attend, I add or subtract another element from my dream funeral. 

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of Mary Ann Kitzke, the mother of  Fr. Tim Kitzke. Clearly,  Mary Ann was a warm and loving woman of strong faith who did much good in this world.  There were one thousand people, two bishops and 40 priests in attendance, all praying fervently.  It put my three priest dream right to shame, although I'm not sure that any of the forty priests were actually crying.  The funeral choir was outstanding, with all three of my required funeral songs perfectly performed.  I cannot fathom how a priest is able to say the funeral Mass for his own mother, but Fr. Tim was well composed, sharing humorous stories that he fondly recalled about his mother and his family life.  At the final commendation,  Archbishop Listecki mentioned that each priest present at the funeral represented a Mass offered on behalf of Mary Ann's soul.  I left that funeral thinking about how much I want to be the mother of a priest!  How I would love to know that there would be 40 Masses offered for my soul upon my death, all by priests who knew me personally.  And I am certain that my soul will need those Masses with all of the sinful spiritual avarice and funeral envy that dwells within  it!  It looks like I'm going to need a lot of help in getting to heaven!

Then I thought about my own parent's funerals, both lovely Masses, with lots of prayer and the rosary, and a delightful luncheon, but only one priest present at each.  Both of my parents, Elmer and Mary, were holy and prayerful people.  They had pre-planned most of the details of their funerals well in advance.  But most important to both of them was that there would be lots of Masses prayed for their souls after their death.  They knew that a period of purgation was inevitable before they could rest eternally in heavenly joy and peace, and they further knew that it would take a lot of prayer to help them get there.

And so ultimately, based on the example of my parents,  I know that whether I have one, three or forty priests at my funeral, whether the Ave Maria is sung off-key or Pie Jesu is omitted, whether anyone laughs or cries, whether I'm laid to rest in a mahogany casket or a cardboard box, all that really matters is that my family and friends who know and love me, band together to pray my soul from purgatory to heaven, offering Masses and rosaries as well as the joys and sorrows of their everyday lives.  With that promise of prayer I will have the richest funeral of all.  And to that end, why wait until I'm dead to ask for prayer for my soul?  Why not begin right now?  Here's a beautiful prayer for a good death.  Let's pray it together!

Eternal rest grant unto Mary Ann Kitzke, Monica Geiger, and Elmer and Mary Reindl, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls, and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

For a Good Death

O most merciful Jesus, I praise and thank Thee for Thy most bitter death, and I beseech Thee, by Thy death and by the breaking of Thy Heart, to grant me a happy death. When my soul leaves my body, may it be immediately delivered from all sin, set free from all debt, and mercifully received into eternal joy. I know, O Lord, that I ask of Thee a very great favour, and a sinner like me ought not to presume to ask it; but it is as easy to Thy goodness to forgive few or many sins. It is not, indeed, our merits, but Thy infinite mercy that procures for us even the least share of heavenly beatitude. In order to be made worthy and fit to receive this favour, grant, O good Lord, that I may now truly and completely die to the world and to myself. From this time forth, may all appear to me worthless that is not Thee. May nothing interest me but Thee alone. For Thy sake may I look on everything with contempt, and may I rejoice when I am despised for Thee. O good Jesus, may I ever be wounded with Thy most pure and fervent love; may all that is not Thee be bitter to me, and may all that is pleasing to Thee become dear to me. Be Thou, my Lord and God, dearer to me than all besides, or rather, be Thou truly all in all to me."

~Dom John of Torralba, Ancient Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Renaissance Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." That is just like a line of music. I'm glad you thought of making me learn this, Miss Cuthbert."  ~from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

"What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?" 

~from Macbeth by William Shakespeare

"I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!"  ~Luke 12: 49

My beautiful niece, Elizabeth, acts at the Renaissance Faire each summer.  The Renaissance Faire is an outdoor re-enactment of Elizabethan England, a step back in time to another age, one of regal royalty and refinement.  The Faire is filled with jousting, juggling, and various other forms of merrymaking. 

My family and I spent a recent day there and when we first arrived, Elizabeth greeted us at the gate.  It was strange to listen to her speak with an olde English accent, and not once did she step out of character as she quickly showed us around before she began her official role for the day.  She spoke to us of the "year past" and thanked us with a "gramercy".  With each noble character that we passed, she bowed to show them reverence.  It was enchanting!

By far, my favorite show was the informal gathering of actors who recited lines from Shakespeare.  Their passion for their lines was evident and I was often moved to tears with goosebumps crawling up my arms despite the warm weather as I watched and listened.

I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if we were to put as much feeling into our prayer as the actors did into reciting Shakespeare.  After all, aren't words of scripture and prayer filled with passion and poetry?  Imagine taking each line of the Lord's Prayer step by step and slowly, thoughtfully, praying the words with feeling, instead of rushing through as we so often do.  To pray the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and shout out with head raised to the heavens "May God rebuke him!" instead of mumbling it with head bent down into our chest, how much more meaning would our prayer have.  And wouldn't our prayer become fraught with emotion if we were to fall to our knees as a pregnant Elizabeth beholding our Fair Cousin as we pray the Hail Mary?

I vow to make all of my ordinary prayer into Renaissance Prayer and to offer God my heartfelt fervor and passion along with my words of petition and praise.  No fancy costume or olde English accent required, but a heart full of reverent love and devotion to my Savior will suffice!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

3 Reasons I Love Catholicism Vol. 5

Here I am at this wickedly late hour,  joining Micaela at California to Korea and sharing three of my favorite things about my beloved Catholic faith that are resonating within my soul this month...

1.  Confession and Forgiveness:  They go together, don't they?  That day when my daughter and I did battle over teenage fashion like mothers and daughters sometimes do, we were both left feeling emotionally raw from anger and sorrow and poor judgment.  Twelve-year-olds aren't the only ones who suffer from growing pains and the struggle to mature.

So the next night when Dad took the boys to the baseball game, mother and daughter headed downtown to Gesu's dark basement church for confession, and we stood in line, waiting to beg forgiveness from our Lord.  Ancient Fr. Herian came creaking around the corner in his cassock that hung limply from his bony frame and we each took our turn in the box.  I love that Fr. Herian.  He spoke of how confession is for encouragement and told me to spend the month of August praying for courage.  Then he pointed out the crucifix hanging on the wall above my head.  He asked me to look long and hard at Jesus suffering and dying there and to repeat after him three times, and together we prayed, "Jesus, crucified for me, have mercy on me, a sinner.  Jesus, crucified for me, have mercy on me, a sinner.  Jesus, crucified for me, have mercy on me, a sinner."  I left the confessional with a smile on my face to find my daughter who was silently kneeling as she offered her penance.  We embraced and sighed with contentment and peace.

Then we headed over to Cempazuchi, my favorite Mexican restaurant on Brady Street, part of "The Fashionable East Side", and we sat outside and ate and talked and laughed and prayed with the Angelus Bells ringing at St. Hedwig's across the street and watched the people walk past and we had a lovely time. The best mother/daughter time ever.  And all is forgiven.  And the mercy of our loving God warmed our souls and we relaxed in His love which embraces us both.

 2.  Processions:  There are times when this is not exactly on my favorites list.  There are times when processions cause me too much stress and worry and I fail to trust in the Lord thinking that I have to control everything.  That's because I'm the procession planner for Roses for Our Lady and the devil hates it when Catholics gather by the hundreds and bring the Eucharist out into the street and pray the rosary on a loudspeaker to draw attention to our beautiful faith.  So that evil one makes sure he gives me all he's got to try to keep me from getting my job done.  But he always fails because Our Lady's love is so much stronger than his ugly hatred.  She crushes his head every time.  So there are always difficulties and challenges when planning our Eucharistic Rosary Processions, but when the pieces finally fall together, it is a beautiful sight to behold, and I will do it again and again for the joy that it brings to my Mother who continually suffers from the sins of this world.

Roses for Our Lady's May Crowning Eucharistic Rosary Procession
Bishop Hying, Fr. Tim Kitzke, Fr. Enrique Hernandez, Fr. Paul Schneider, OFM Conv. (just before his ordination)

Fr. Matthew Widder with Our Lord

If you are in the Milwaukee area, you will want to join Roses for Our Lady and Bishop Donald Hying at our September 8th procession in honor of the Blessed Mother's Birthday and on October 6th in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary.   They will both be equally beautiful celebrations!  Details can be found here.

3.  Homilies:  A good homily is food for the soul. It has the power to nurture and inspire me to joyfully live my faith and will often remain in my thoughts throughout the upcoming week.  Of course, I've never heard anyone say that they love a dull, uninspiring homily, so I know I'm not alone in my love for a good homily.

The thing about a homily that makes it so special is that it's the breaking open of the Gospel reading, not simply a sermon about any topic that happens to be on the pastor's heart at the present moment.  Through the homily, we learn and understand a bit more about the Gospel and how we are called to live it in our daily lives. We are given a glimpse into the very heart of Jesus through the words of the priest.

What are three of your reasons for loving Catholicism?  List them in the comments or join Micaela and write your own blog post about them!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sun-Kissed Weeds

I wrote this little poem several years ago while on an autumn girls weekend away "up north" in Door County, Wisconsin.  Although it's not seasonal, the mood struck me to share it now, so here it is!  God's blessings array this earth with so much year-round beauty.  It's a rare moment when I slow down and remember to thank Him in gracious appreciation for all of His goodness.

I watch as the sun kisses 
the weeds in the meadow 
licking the early morning 
frost off the leaves 
in a passionate act of love 
known only to me 
and the unseen wildlife