Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Mark of Our Mother

The Bender family has a new addition to our household!  Last fall, Justin came home with a tabby cat, Roo. We all fell in love with our sweet little pet, including my husband, who mysteriously overcame his "cat allergy" once Roo moved in.

There's a legend about tabby cats regarding the letter "M" that can be seen on their foreheads. As the story goes, when Jesus was born, He was so cold in the manger that the Blessed Mother struggled to keep Him warm.  All of the farm animals moved closer to the creche, hoping that their breath would bring warmth to the Child, but still, the Babe continued to shiver and cry. Then a tabby cat jumped right into the manger next to our Lord and his body heat and rhythmic purring soon lulled the Infant Christ to sleep.  The Blessed Mother was so grateful, that as she patted the cat's head in gratitude, she left the mark of the letter "M" upon his forehead.  To this day, all tabby cats carry the mark of the Blessed Mother upon their heads.

Like the tabby cat, we too, bring warmth to the Christ Child with each act of kindness that we do for love of Him.  When we attend Mass with reverence, spend time in Eucharistic Adoration of our Lord, generously give to those who have not, spread joy with a friendly smile, share our faith with children, visit those who are ill, mourn and pray for those who have died or give Christian love in any other possible way, we are pleasing the Blessed Mother who so deeply longs for Her Son to be known and loved in this world.  And so, in gratitude, she leaves her mark upon us as well, sheltering us under the shadow of her protection and within the gaze of her loving eyes.  We are forever her children and we are blessed by the mark of her love.

You can be sure that during my Advent preparations this year I'll be searching for a tabby cat to grace my nativity set so that for the first time, my Christmas creche will truly be complete!  

(P.S. Dear Reader, did you find this post to be a shameless sharing of cat pictures?  If so, please forgive the indulgence!  I do love that adorable cat!)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Guest Post by Dawn Meyer: Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,King of the Universe


Dear Friends/Family:

Today is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!  Just wanted to share some items of interest with you, to help make this Solemnity even more meaningful for you...

Regarding the Gospel for today (Luke 23: 35-43):

The episode of the "good thief" appears only in Luke's Gospel. This man (Dismas) shows signs of repentance, recognizes Jesus' innocence, and makes an act of faith in Him.  Jesus, for his part, promises him Paradise.  

St. Ambrose comments: "The Lord always grants more than one asks:  the thief only asked Jesus to remember him, but the Lord says to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'"  (taken from the Navarre Bible commentary)

AMAZING!  How generous and merciful Jesus was to Dismas!  Dismas' faith in Jesus as King and his sorrow for his sins, were the necessary elements in his meriting eternal life. The example of Dismas reveals to us, the power that a simple act of faith has for us pilgrims here on earth!  

Something as easy as making the sign of the Cross when we pass by a Catholic Church, to acknowledge Jesus' Real Presence in the tabernacle, would be one way to make an act of faith like Dismas did.  Or, offer this prayer to Jesus every day:  "Jesus, please take all of my love, the love that you have given me first, and let my love for you remain with you in all of the tabernacles around the world where you are abandoned and not adored.  Let my love for you console your Most Sacred Heart in all the tabernacles of the world!  Amen."  

The good priests of Miles Christi have this to share with us, regarding Our Lord Jesus Christ the King:

"Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of the world.  Therefore, it is a duty of every Christian to fight for the true reign of Christ, first in his own soul, becoming increasingly rooted in Him by means of the Sacraments (especially Confession and the Eucharist), prayer, and the concrete imitation of the Lord in every moment of our life.  

Then, second, to conquer all men for the Lord, so that His blood may not be shed for them in vain.  Pope Pius XI reminded the faithful that, 'it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King and to devote themselves with apostolic zeal to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from Him and to valiantly defend His rights.' (Quas Primas, 24)

A blessed Sunday to each of you!


St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Most Holy Theotokos

"Wisdom! Most holy Theotokos, save us. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. In virginity thou gavest birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify thee."  ~from Moljeben in Supplication for the Victims of Abortion

Orthodox Clergy at Moljeben Service (photo credit:  40 Days for Life/Dan Miller)

photo credit:  Mary Anne Urlakis

Fr. Gregory Madlom and Subdeacon Henry Shirley, the clergy from St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church in West Bend, Wisconsin, hold a weekly Orthodox Moljeben Prayer Service for Victims of Abortion with an ecumenical congregation outside of Affiliated Medical Services, a Milwaukee abortuary, during every 40 Days for Life Campaign.  The prayer service is beautiful!  It's 30 minutes of chanted prayer with so much incense that the demons must surely be smoked out of that place of torture and death.   I have been honored to take part in several of the prayer services during each campaign.  Our gatherings are always peaceful events; peaceful, that is, until the last prayer service of the most recent campaign, a prayer service that was anything but typical.

About 30 people had gathered in front of the abortion mill to pray on Sunday, November 3rd at 3 PM.  Fr. Gregory was delayed in traffic, and everyone was waiting patiently for the prayer service to begin.  A car approached the abortion mill, and the driver, not bothering to pull over to the curb and out of traffic, rolled down his window and very kindly said hello and then said something about how nice it was to see so many people gathered for prayer.  That, unfortunately, was the only nicety he offered.  Then the back window rolled down, and a man with a megaphone began shouting insults at our group.  He criticized our God, our religion, our belief in the right to life, our politics, our clothing and our hairstyles.  He was a typical bully.  All the while that he was shouting through the megaphone, the man in the front seat continued his rant as well.  They continued for at least 20 minutes.  We tried to ignore them, and many of the men in our group stood with their backs to the aggressors to form a wall.

Shortly after they began the harrassment, a beautiful young lady, being quite disturbed by this hateful display, approached the car to try to reason with the antagonists.  The man in the front immediately laid into her with profanities, and one of the men from our group had enough.  He knocked the megaphone down to the ground.  The man in the front seat of the car was clearly delighted by this bit of aggression.  He said, "Ooh, this is a violent group!!!  You attacked me!  I'm going to call the police and put a stop to this!"  And he did call the police all the while continuing his harassment. I was told that this wasn't the first time that these two men have come to cause trouble at the abortion mill, that they are well known by many members of our group. But there was someone far more powerful who was also very present at the abortion mill that day, someone who would see to it that no harm would come to those who were standing up and praying for the innocent lives of infants who meet their demise at that house of horror.

I had been honored to hold the icon of Our Lady of Walsingham, the work of subdeacon Henry Shirley, and when Redemptorist priest, Fr. Jim White, came and stood beside me, I asked him to lead us in praying the rosary.  Soon there were 30 voices united in prayer and the sounds of antagonism were drowned out, and the embittered men, finding that they were ignored, left.  At that moment, while holding the icon of Our Lady and praying her rosary,  I felt firmly and completely protected by the presence of the Blessed Mother, and was pleased with the speedy departure of those tormentors which was brought about through our Lady's intercession.  Before we could complete the rosary, Fr. Gregory had arrived and our Moljeben began.

The police did arrive during our prayer service, and as it turned out, the men with the megaphone were in violation of several laws including blocking traffic and the use of amplification without a permit.  Our Lady had shown us that with her protection, the protection of the one who has crushed the serpent's head, there is nothing to fear and we will continue to confidently and boldly step out in service of our Lord in any way He happens to call us.

Our Lady of Walsingham by Henry Shirley

"Most holy Theotokos, save us!  O Mother of God, our queen and our hope, the refuge of the abandoned and the intercessor for those who have gone astray; the joy of all who sorrow and the protectress of the needy; thou seest our poverty, our affliction and misery.  Help us who are weak; feed us who are hungry; intercede for us with thy Son and our God, and may He deal with us as He pleaseth.  For we have no other hope, no other intercessor,  no other consolation except thee, O Virgin Theotokos.  Protect us beneath thy veil, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.  Amen."   ~from the Moljeben in Supplication for the Victims of Abortion

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Betrothed

In Pope Francis' interview, A Big Heart Open to God, he shared the title of his favorite book, The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni.  Regarding this book, the Pope shared:

“I have read The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, three times, and I have it now on my table because I want to read it again. Manzoni gave me so much. When I was a child, my grandmother taught me by heart the beginning of The Betrothed: ‘That branch of Lake Como that turns off to the south between two unbroken chains of mountains....’"  

That beginning line was enough to entice me, and so with the Pope's recommendation, I immediately requested the book from my favorite library, The Salzmann Library, at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee.  Much to my joy, they were able to fill my order immediately.

The Betrothed, a work of historical fiction set in the early 1600's in and near Milan, Italy, is quite long at 537 pages, and it took me several weeks to complete, but they were weeks well spent in slowly relishing every word of Manzoni.  The tale of Renzo and Lucia, filled with love, betrayal, intrigue, suffering, conversion, and forgiveness was magnificent, and although so much of the story involved a tale of sorrow with a thorough description of the sufferings inflicted by the plague, the author was sure to include clever little sayings that brought a smile to my face, such as this comment regarding the failings of Bortolo, a minor character in the story:  "Perhaps you, reader, would prefer a more ideal Bortolo?  If so, then all  I can say is, make one up for yourself.  This one was like that."

Cardinal Federico Borromeo
By far, the highlight of the story came in the middle of the book, when the reader was introduced to Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, the cousin and successor of St. Charles Borromeo.   I couldn't help but see a great resemblance between the characteristics of Cardinal Borromeo and those of our own dear Pope Francis.  See if you don't notice the similarities yourself.  Here's Manzoni's description of Cardinal Borromeo:

 "Federigo considered alms-giving proper as a very first duty; and here, as in everything else, his actions were in accordance with his principles. His life was spent in continual lavishing of money on the poor...

This man's inexhaustible charity showed not only in his giving but in his whole bearing.  Easy of access to all, he felt it a special duty to have a pleasant smile and an affectionate courtesy towards those who are called the lower classes, particularly as they find so little of it in the world...

He was very rarely irritated, and was admired for the sweetness of his manner, and for his imperturbable  calm; this might be attributed to an unusually happy temperament, but was in fact the result of constant discipline over a disposition naturally lively and impulsive.  If there were times when he showed himself severe, even harsh, it was towards those of his subordinate clergy whom he found guilty of avarice or negligence or any other conduct opposed to the spirit of their noble ministry...

...this same modesty, this dislike of predominating over others, was equally apparent in the commonest occurrences of life.  Assiduous and indefatigable in organizing and disposing when he considered it his duty, he always avoided intruding in other people's affairs, and even did all that he could to avoid doing so when he was asked to; a discretion and restraint unusual, as everyone knows, in men zealous for good like Federigo."

I found The Betrothed to be greatly inspiring, causing me to desire to become more Christ-like and forgiving to those in my own life who have brought pain and sorrow to my days.  I highly recommend a slow and meditative reading of Manzoni's The Bethrothed , so that, like Pope Francis, you too, may claim it to be one of your favorite literary works.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Angel of Death

While resting upon the rock
that juts out into the lake,
chilled to the bone
by the damp, cold November air,
I observed the angel of death
pass over in a lone,
gray cloud, drifting
lower than the rest.

Ripples moved across the lake,
and the crow was silenced.

I waited for the angel
to take my soul
and leave my limp, lifeless body
on the rock.

But, alas, it was not my time.

He continued slowly upon his way
and left me to my silent,
peaceful reverie
of all those souls
whom I have loved,
now passed from this earth
into the eternal arms of God.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

(a revised re-post from All Soul's Day past)