Monday, June 30, 2014

Quiet Comfort

"Your Father knows what you need before you even ask Him."  ~Matthew 6:8

"The Lord gave me to know how displeased He is with a talkative soul.  I find no rest in such a soul.  The constant din tires Me, and in the midst of it the soul cannot discern My voice."  ~Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

Whenever Paul and I have an opportunity to spend a little time alone together on a date, my thirteen-year-old daughter, Mary, inevitably drills me later, wanting to know what we talked about  during our time away.  I usually reply that we didn't talk about very much, that mostly we were just enjoying the peace and quiet of each other's company wordlessly.  She's often incredulous when I share this with her, thinking that Paul and I are quite dull.  

I tell Mary that when you've been married for 23 years, simply being present to one another is often more important than words, and also that we know each other so well, we can often communicate without words.  Sometimes a look or a movement speaks volumes. For example, on a recent warm summer evening, my family and I were relaxing on the backyard deck in the grapevine arbor.  Paul followed my gaze and noticed that I was looking at the vintage metal glider with a critical eye and he knew that I was about to say that I thought it needed painting.  I didn't say anything and yet Paul asked, "What color do you want it?" He knew exactly what I was thinking.

Our prayer relationship with God is a lot like the knowing communication that Paul and I share.  He knows us so well that all we have to do is show up and be with Him.  Our gestures such as kneeling or folding our hands show our devotion. The emotions that well up in our hearts speak our needs.  We don't have to utter a single word, and yet, He knows exactly how we are feeling, what we are thinking, and what we need.  We might be sitting in God's presence, worrying about a problem at work, some troubles at home, or a friend who is ill and God says, "I see you looking at that.  Don't worry about it anymore.  I'll take care of it."

We don't always need to put forth excessive effort in prayer, rattling off the many memorized prayers of our tradition, but can simply rest in His love, trusting that all of our cares and concerns are in good hands.  It's such a comfort to know that He will always be there for us, will always love us, and will always take care of our needs just like a loving Spouse in a lifelong marriage.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Oremus MKE (Milwaukee)

"A Church which 'goes forth' is a Church whose doors are open...Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way."   ~Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Fr. Tim Kitzke, the pastor of three East Side Milwaukee parishes that include seven churches, recently told a story about his high school seminary days.  He said that he used to ponder the idea of becoming a missionary in some exotic country, and now, here he is, a priest on Brady Street.  Brady Street, part of Milwaukee's "Fashionable East Side"or FES for short, is home to many bars, coffee shops, restaurants and tattoo shops.  The residents are known to be the most trendy young people around, and whenever I visit the area I marvel at the amount of people who sport tattoos, face piercings, gauge earrings and non-traditional hair styles and colors.  Brady Street is definitely exotic!

In an effort to evangelize the neighborhood, Fr. Tim, along with some young adult parishioners, have begun a wonderful new initiative called Oremus MKE (Milwaukee).  On a recent Saturday night, the busiest night of the week on Brady Street when the bars and restaurants are filled to capacity, Fr. Tim opened the doors to St. Hedwig's Church (part of Three Holy Women Parish) that sits in the midst of all of the life and activity on Brady Street, from 9 PM to Midnight for Eucharistic Adoration and confession.  He sent many young parishioners out into the neighborhood to invite passersby in for a few moments of prayer.

Two of my sons and I had the joy of attending for the first grace-filled hour.  The church was ablaze with candles, and local and extremely talented organist, Jake Heidel, and equally talented violinist, Brandon Rindfleish, set the prayerful mood with lovely strains of music such as the Salve Regina and God Beyond All Praising.  All evening long people steadily streamed into the church.  They were given candles to place at the foot of the altar near an icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and encouraged to spend a few minutes in prayer before the Eucharist.  Information sheets were placed in the pews explaining the Catholic belief in the Real Presence along with promotional materials for Theology on Tap.  Four priests awaited anyone who would be moved to confess their sins and then the evening closed with benediction at Midnight.  As we left we were told that Oremus Milwaukee would be offered again later this summer or in the early fall.  I highly encourage those in the Milwaukee area to attend and bring along a friend or two.

What exactly was it that the organizers hoped to achieve with Oremus MKE?  From the Mission Milwaukee website: 

 "We are doing it  because in Milwaukee we have a lot events (most of them are good events by the way) just for Catholics; there are service events, social events, liturgical events,  but there is no bridge for inviting people outside of the Catholic circle to come to Catholic events. And even though most events in the church are open to everyone, how do we go about inviting people? Most people (including myself) get nervous when talking with a non-Catholic about our faith.  We get so stuck in our little Catholic world that we don’t take the time to invest in people who are not part of the Catholic church. We only invest in people who are already Catholic but don’t take the time to invite other people who are outside of the faith. It forces us outside of our comfort zone. It's safer to talk to Catholics
But guess what; non Catholics find us intriguing. To a hipster a faithful Catholic might seem ‘anti-establishment’ or ‘going against the grain’ of culture. To a young person a faithful Catholic might look like someone who has a strong sense of identity, both personal and corporate. At the very least, an offer to come into a Catholic church to pray [for peace if that's what we ask for. its universal, its biblical, its something that people want] and feel like they are participating in something. Why into the church? Why not a prayer garden? Why can’t we just invite people into the prayer garden, or to the lakefront. Those places are good, but Catholics have something great we call ‘The Real Presence of Jesus Christ’ in every church. Perhaps nothing happens [to those who come into the church], but later on, when they are out at a ….bar…a party…they remember the moment of silence and peace and they realize for a just a moment that there is something more for them to do and…believe…but even if all they do is pray (unknowingly) before the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrament (AKA Jesus, Real Presence) is present for them, is there for them, maybe this will prompt something for them. Maybe the Holy Spirit will work in their lives. What is the ultimate goal? To fill the pews; not really. To promote peace; maybe, to bring about peace; maybe. To bring people into union with Jesus, yes. To bring people before the Lord. Yes. It’s simple enough. Just open the door, and invite them in."  

Visit the Mission Milwaukee website here for more information.

photo credit:  Sam Vosters/Tom Klind

photo credit: Sam Vosters/Tom Klind

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The National Shrine of St. Philomena

Two winters ago my friend Danette and I had plans to visit the National Shrine of St. Philomena in Briggsville,Wisconsin.  Our plans were foiled, however, by a winter snowstorm that made the two hour drive from our homes impossible. Instead we made a prayerful pilgrimage in Milwaukee and ended up at St. Joseph's Chapel where we miraculously discovered St. Philomena's relic in a reliquary room containing hundreds of relics.  It seems we were meant to spend the day with her whether it was at her shrine or within our local area.  I still had my heart set on a trip to the shrine someday, but, Danette has since moved to Florida, so I put the thought of a day trip to the shrine out of my mind.  What fun would it be without her?

Recently my family joined me on a trip to Wisconsin Dells where I attended a conference for my job. Whenever we spend time away from home, I look for a nearby church so that I might still attend daily Mass, but hadn't done so on this particular trip.  As we were driving into town from the hotel for a meal out, we passed a billboard advertising St. Cecelia's Church.  It seems God gave me a sign, literally, that He wanted me at Mass.  So on the final morning of our stay, I arose early and drove into the Dells for Mass.  When I arrived at the church I was disappointed to find that there was only a prayer service and not a Mass, but I was still grateful to have received the Body of my Lord and to have to opportunity to visit a charming, small-town church, although it did make me a bit homesick for daily Mass at my  beautiful home parish of Old St. Mary in downtown Milwaukee.  As I was driving back to the hotel, I saw a highway sign that read "Briggsville 10 miles" and I then recalled that Briggsville is the home of the National Shrine of St. Philomena.

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Dells at St. Cecelia Parish

the church boasted many beautiful stained glass windows

the main altar

Our Lady's side altar

St. Joseph's side altar with the tabernacle

The last day of the conference really dragged as I was now looking forward to stopping at the shrine on our way home.  As we drove into Briggsville we were greeted by another sign that read "Welcome to Briggsville, Home of the National Shrine of St. Philomena."  I doubt that there are many other small towns that boast a shrine as the highlight of their area. The shrine was easy to find as Briggsville is a very small town, one of those that you would miss if you drove too fast.  

As I entered the outdoor shrine, I was greeted by the strong smell of candle wax and the sight of many bouquets of silk flowers and plastic rosaries, a witness to the many prayers that had been offered there.  A book for recording prayer intentions and several pamphlets about St. Philomena were also available.  It was such an honor to spend a few minutes praying with St. Philomena for all of my intentions, and to offer a special prayer for Danette and her family whom I sorely miss but who were with me in my prayers at this very holy site.  

There is much to admire at the lovely shrine which was built by Fr. I.C.Wiltzius, a priest with a deep devotion to St. Philomena, in the late 1940's.  I admit that I was a bit disappointed that the interior of the church was very plain, but perhaps it is a work in progress and at my next visit I may be surprised to find that it will have been lovingly embellished.  

Except for a man praying in front of the tabernacle inside the church, my family and I were the only ones visiting the shrine at that time.  I didn't want to disturb his prayer to ask about where I might find the relic of St. Philomena, and my family and I were anxious to return home, so we kept our visit short and sweet. Now I'll just have to make a return visit some day to find her relic and to spend more time praying with one of my favorite saints!

I recommend that you learn more about the fascinating history of the shrine here.  The shrine website is full of interesting information and stories of miracles attributed to St. Philomena including several pertaining to the building of the shrine.

You can read my previous posts about St. Philomena here and here.

St. Philomena, powerful with God, pray for us!

Friday, June 27, 2014


The fragrance of wild roses fully in bloom is currently filling my yard and delighting my senses.  It's a little late for the blossoms this year as we've been enjoying an abnormally cool June here in Milwaukee which has delayed the opening of the roses.  But now that they are fully open, and since they have a short growing season, in another week they'll be done, I thought it would be a fitting time to share my poem, Blush, written about those fragile flowers and how they are a sign of God's love for me.  Blush will be displayed at the Contemporary Religious Artists Association in Kansas City next month.  The theme of the show is "God's Love."  To learn more about the art show, visit here.


The wild rose buds are pried apart
by the early June heat.
Their opening is a gasp for air and water
as they separate their soft petals,
reluctantly releasing their pink blush
and their heavenly fragrance.

There's a hint of divine 
that resides in their beauty, and I blush, too,
when I think of how He loves me.
He loves me passionately and wildly;
me...a simple nobody.

And He sends an abundance 
of pink roses in June
for this nobody
who blushes with delight
at His sweet and fragrant gift.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Parfrey's Glen

Beauty for the eyes both majestic and miniscule, woodsy fragrance so heady and delightful the senses can't possibly take it all in, melodious sounds of birds and babbling brooks to soothe the soul, this is what my family and I find at my favorite hiking trail, Parfrey's Glen, part of Devil's Lake State Park, near Baraboo,Wisconsin, where we revel in God's gifts of natural wonder on a much needed annual family visit.

Parfrey's Glen begins with an easy, paved trail through a wooded area but quickly evolves into a deep gorge of sandstone and quartzite carved out by the ice age millions of years ago.  The temperature is easily ten degrees cooler within the gorge than what we experienced on the paved path.  A few years ago, sturdy wooden bridges carried the hiker over the rocky stream-bed to a small waterfall until the floods of 2008 and 2010.  The effects of water on the Baraboo area were so strong during the floods that the man-made bridges were washed away.  The Glen was closed to the public for nearly two long years.  The trail has since re-opened but without the bridges, and the hikers must now navigate the rocks and fallen trees carefully so as to keep from twisting an ankle on the slippery rocks or falling into the water.  To call the trail difficult is an understatement, and yet, the thrill of the challenge and the beauty of the surroundings makes the hike well worth it and brings me to praise God for His glorious creation with one of my favorite prayers, the Orthodox Akathist Hymn.

O Lord, how lovely it is to be Thy guest. Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun's golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Thy love. Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!

Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavour and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on Thine earth. It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.

Glory to Thee for the Feast Day of life
Glory to Thee for the perfume of lilies and roses
Glory to Thee for each different taste of berry and fruit
Glory to Thee for the sparkling silver of early morning dew
Glory to Thee for the joy of dawn's awakening
Glory to Thee for the new life each day brings
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

It is the Holy Spirit who makes us find joy in each flower, the exquisite scent, the delicate colour, the beauty of the Most High in the tiniest of things. Glory and honour to the Spirit, the Giver of Life, who covers the fields with their carpet of flowers, crowns the harvest with gold, and gives to us the joy of gazing at it with our eyes. O be joyful and sing to Him: Alleluia!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Sometimes all we need is a little nudge from our friends to send us out of our comfort zone and propel us to experience life in a new and adventurous way.  I was encouraged by my friend Christi, to enter some of my poetry in the Contemporary Religious Artists Association's National Show in Kansas City this coming July.  The theme of the show is God's Love.  I sent in three of my poems thinking nothing much would come of it, and then I promptly put the thought of the art show out of my mind.  What a delicious surprise to receive an email a month later telling me that all three of my poems were accepted into the show!!!

Soon I'll be off on an adventure like I've never known before, including my first airplane ride!  I'll be writing more posts about my experience with the art show and my visit to Kansas City in the future, but for today, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, I want to share one of my entries.

May the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ permeate your soul today and always!


"Amen" I say, and the cup is offered;
a small sip and I return 
to my knees with the taste of
the Precious Blood still strongly
flavoring my mouth.

A little taste is all it takes
for the Blood of Christ to
saturate every pore of my body.
I am drenched in the beautiful liquid
that quenches my deep thirst for Him.

Oh Lord, let your Most Precious Blood,
outpouring  from your side,
permeate my soul forever.
Immerse me, flood me, wash me in your love.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lowering Standards

"As I walked about, inspecting everything, I suddenly saw a crowd of children who seemed to be no older than five to eleven years of age.  When they saw me they surrounded me and began to cry out, "Defend us from evil," and they led me into the chapel which was in this convent.  When I entered the chapel, I saw the distressful Lord Jesus.  Jesus looked at me graciously and said that He was gravely offended by children:  You are to defend them from evil.  From that moment, I have been praying for children, but I feel that prayer alone is not enough."  ~Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

Thunder cracked like the end of the world.  Now fully awake from a deep sleep, my mind went to my five babies sleeping upstairs.  Babies?  Physically that's not right and yet, to me, they always will be.  I wasn't worried about the safety of their bodies in the storm, but instead, I was concerned about the safety of their souls.  The local news has been filled with the story of two young girls who attempted to brutally murder a classmate and my heart has been heavy with the horror of it.  I worry about the influence of peer pressure upon my teens and young adults and how they have to deal with so many difficult situations in the world today. The burden of raising children to be holy in a world gone astray is certainly the greatest challenge of parenting today, and perhaps always has been.  I began to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  "Have mercy upon us and upon the whole world," I repeated over and over again until I fell back asleep.

Yesterday, when my children were babies, I heeded the advice to "lower my standards" and tried not to stress over the often dirty house, substandard meals lacking nutritional value and the lack of sleep all new moms endured.  I just tried to enjoy my family in the moment knowing that time would pass all too soon and they would be all grown up.

In the past 20 years, since God first made me a mother, I have been continually lowering my standards for cleanliness, health, education and finances, and perhaps several other standards as well.  I'm working on giving up my dreams for my children and gradually am coming to accept the fact that they have dreams of their own to sort out and chase.

But I can never lower my standards for their souls.  I can never lose vigilance in my prayers for them.  I take St. Monica as an example and pray for her perseverance hoping that I will have the courage to follow after my children whenever they go astray, and gently, lovingly, bring them back to the straight and narrow path toward sanctity.  I know that my own mother had done the same for me, and now with love, I carry the torch for holiness in my prayers for my own children.

O Lord, my God,  I beg of you to grant the gift of holiness to my children.  May their daily lives be filled with prayer, and may their daily actions glorify You in all things.  Lead my husband and I to holiness, too.  Don't  let our sinfulness become an obstacle to the sanctity to which my children are called.  May we be a witness to the joy that fills one's soul from serving You alone.  Let this request be the high standard that will never be lowered, the prayer above all prayers that You, my God, will see fit to answer.  Amen. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Tree of Life

"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him." ~Revelation 22:2

On a recent mild spring day, my friend Christi Jentz and I spent an enjoyable hour or two beginning to plot out a plan for a sea glass mosaic, combining my fanaticism for collecting the colorful bits of shards discovered along the shores of Lake Michigan with Christi's artistic flair and talent.  It was all Christi's idea really, I'm far too lazy to have ever considered doing much with my sea glass other than cleaning it and then using it to fill the many glass jars and bottles that line my front porch windows.

Christi had recently been blessed to visit the Chartes Cathedral in France and was enthralled with the Tree of Life floor covering that lay at the altar of the great church.  She brought a picture of the Tree of Life from the book of Revelation to my house, sketched out a rough draft on paper and we began to assemble the beginnings of the tree roots and water at the base of the tree.

At the time we began, we weren't quite sure what we would do with the mosaic-would we embed the glass in cement for an outdoor stepping stone or perhaps should we aim for a stained glass window effect instead? One of the things I most love about sea glass is how translucent it is when the light shines through the many colors, so we have decided to go with the window option.  I purchased a salvaged antique window at Restore, a resale shop that supports Habitat for Humanity, and that window will become our base for the Tree of Life mosaic.  I'm fond of following sea glass groups on facebook and it was there that I learned that Duco Cement works well for holding the sea glass onto window glass so that's the bond we'll use, followed by a coat of resin to hold the piece together.  I'm a bit concerned that the window I purchased may be a  bit too large and heavy, so I may have to continue searching for something a bit lighter weight, but that searching will be most enjoyable, I'm sure.

the window will obviously need  a bit of love
and careful cleaning before we glue the sea glass on it!

At this point I continue to spend my spare time separating the many colors of sea glass in my collection to make the work of piecing the mosiac together go more smoothly and quickly.  We anticipate the project taking us several months before we'll be satisfied with what  we accomplish, but I'll be joyfully sharing our progress along the way and welcoming any advice from experts and novices alike on how we should proceed.

Christi has also written a post about the project including some fascinating background information on the Chartes Cathedral.  Please do visit her post here to learn more!

A river runs through the tree of life, and a river runs through my soul.  
That river refreshes me with every good gift from God-
the gifts of friendship, creativity, beauty and joy-
the gifts that bring meaning to my days.  
How glorious is our God!  
He quenches my burning thirst for His love 
with little drops of grace 
poured out with perfect measure 
to gently wash me into His peace.