Thursday, July 31, 2014


Pope Francis recently listed his Top Ten Secrets to Happiness.  I like that our pope is so practical.  He speaks to me even when I'm feeling slow and sluggish and find it difficult to concentrate on deep thoughts.  His list of secrets is easy to read, understand and apply to real life.

My personal favorite on his list is to have a "healthy sense of leisure which includes playing with our children".  For too long I have been a seriously serious mother.  I'd rarely leave time to play with my children, filling my days with work and other activities that suited my serious nature until I'd fall into bed exhausted and worn at the end of the day.  But now I'm noticing how quickly my children seem to be growing, with the youngest just entering her teen years this summer, and suddenly, play seems awfully important and, also, deeply enjoyable.

Now, this mother has been pursuing some pleasurable play with her teens that has brought her closer to them than ever.  Impromptu board games after dinner, a family outing with a game of ultimate frisbee, and kitchen song and dance sessions have brought great joy to my heart.  I feel like a kid again, swinging on the back yard swing, blowing larger-than-life bubbles and playing with toys.  What a wise pope we have to recommend playing with children as a secret to happiness!

You can read Pope Francis' complete list of secrets here and may you find that happiness fills your days and draws you closer to Christ as you fully live your life in His love.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Welcome Home!

My wonderful time away from home praying and learning in the art-world of Kansas City quickly came to a close and it was time for me to bravely step into another new adventure-my first ever flight on an airplane!  Except I wasn't very brave.  I was very scared.

As I figured out my way around the airport rules and regulations I felt slightly sick to my stomach from nerves.  It was a good thing I had decided to skip breakfast that morning.  By the time I stepped onto the plane that would take me home, the only seats available to me were the middle seats.  I quietly asked a man if he could make some room for me so that I could sit, and I silently clutched my rosary tightly, stared at the back of the seat in front of me, gritted my teeth and prayed an Act of Contrition and Spiritual Communion in the event that this might be the last time I would have an opportunity to do so.  The pilot announced that there would be lots of turbulence above Chicago.  I had never heard anything good about turbulence from anyone so I was certain I would not survive this flight. As the plane flew toward the heavens, I thought that if I were to die I would at least have the good fortune of being close to what I hoped would be my eternal home.

Take-off reminded me far too much of a roller-coaster ride with a fast incline.  I took one small peek past the gentleman sitting by the window to see the earth quickly dropping below me, swallowed hard, and offered up my fear to the Lord.  After all, there was absolutely nothing I could do about my situation but to try and relax and to leave it in His hands.  Everyone else on the plane seemed to be very much at peace with where they were-they chatted or read as if flying were the most natural thing in the world.  I wondered how it was that so many people found the courage to fly routinely.  I thought about my parents who traveled the world to visit all of the religious shrines in their old age, and I offered a prayer to them as well, but I was sure that my lifelong dream of visiting Rome would never come to be.  I felt sure that I would never again let my feet leave the earth!

Now the clouds were floating past and the brilliance of the blue sky never seemed more clear and illustrious. Later, when my family asked me what the clouds looked like from the plane I replied that they looked the same as we see them from the ground, only upside down.  I thought with amusement about one of Dr. Caroline Farey's explanations of the Ghent Altarpiece by Van Eyck.  In the Annunciation scene the Virgin's words are painted upside down because she is speaking to God.  I was now flying in that upside down world with upside down clouds and upside down words that God continuously occupies.

Source:  Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece
please do visit and explore this website-it's fascinating!  After that you'll
want to learn more about the Ghent Altarpiece and can do so here.

After praying the rosary I was finally able to relax just a bit and occupied myself with St. Faustina's Divine Mercy in My Soul.  I declined the offer for a beverage and peanuts from the flight attendant and kept completely to myself, grateful that neither of the men whom I sat between attempted any small talk and left me quite alone in my minuscule space between them.

I was awash in gratitude when the pilot announced that we were finally flying over Milwaukee.  While the plane landed at what seemed like too rapid of a pace for me, I was finally able to peer out the window once again, hoping that the man with the window seat wasn't too creeped out by me looking past him, and I actually enjoyed noting some of the local landmarks that line Lake Michigan.  And now I was home, safe and sound on the ground once again.  I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the safe and short flight.  Now I understood why Pope Saint John Paul II always kissed the ground upon landing from a flight and I felt like doing the same except I didn't want to draw attention to myself.

And after spending a weekend viewing beautiful and magnificent art, I found the most fabulous work of art in the world standing right in front of me-my smiling children with their Welcome Home sign.  I am certain that a more wondrous masterpiece has never been seen in all the world!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City (source Wikipedia)

restaurant at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art-it looks like an Italian courtyard, doesn't it?

a hallway at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art resembling a monastery walkway

One of the highlights of my time in Kansas City was our visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  Christi and I only had a few hours to spend perusing the art so I was very grateful that she had been there many times before and knew exactly where to go to see the best that the museum had to offer and she willingly shared her knowledge of the pieces we viewed.  I felt as though I had my own personal guided tour and really got a lot out of my short time there.  Yet for all that the museum has to offer, they charge no admission fee whatsoever.

We spent most of our time looking at and praying with religious art.  It seemed as though an entire floor was dedicated to works of faith from the Medieval and Renaissance periods.  Of course I loved it all and took so many pictures that I wore my phone battery right out!  When we completed the tour of the religious art and looked at some of the more modern pieces in the museum's collection I found that the non-religious art all appeared so blase and meaningless to me despite the talent and popularity of the artists.  Nothing compares to the beauty of our faith!  Some of the pieces I loved the most are pictured here.

How fascinating to find a relic of St. John the Baptist in a museum!  What an opportunity for reverence!

relic of St. John the Baptist

This French piece, Virgin and Child by Hayne de Bruxelles, touched me because of the loving way in which the Blessed Mother is shown holding Our Lord close to her cheek.  I recalled the passage from Hosea 11:14, "I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them."  Even more impressive is the fact that it is modeled after a painting by St. Luke himself which is reported to have had miraculous attributes.

This Altarpiece with Scenes from the Life of the Virgin from the Workshop of Gonzalo Perez, was massive, covering an entire wall.  The scene in the very center of the bottom row of Christ being lowered into the tomb, brought me to prayer as my heart was deeply moved by it.  How can you look at the sorrowful expression on the face of the angel who holds the Lord, and the wound in our Lord's side, and not be moved?

Most moving of all, this Head of Christ, attributed to Albert Bouts, kept me in rapt attention.  He's so beautiful and the suffering He endured so traumatic.  How He loves us!  I pray with Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald's prayer at the sixth station from The Holy Face in the Way of the Cross:  "Sorrowful Mother, lift my soul as a Veronica's veil to the outraged face of Jesus.  Beg Him to leave thereon the image of His Holiness and Beauty so clearly impressed that the beauty of creatures may not draw me from my allegiance to the beauty of Christ."


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dr. Caroline Farey

Dr. Caroline Farey
One of the highlights of the National Religious Art Show of the Contemporary Religious Artists Association (CRAA) in Kansas City was the opportunity to hear the renown Dr. Caroline Farey speak about the meaning behind the religious art we enjoy.  Dr. Farey is the Director of Studies at the School of the Annunciation Centre for the New Evangelization at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England.  She is one of only three lay women experts who participated in the Synod of Bishops in Rome dedicated to the New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Faith, and  she also represented catechists of the world when she received the "message for catechists" for the Year of Faith from Pope Benedict XVI.  She had been in Kansas City to present Sacred Art and the New Evangelization and was also the featured keynote speaker for the opening reception for the show.  Listening to her speak in her English accent was quite soothing and enjoyable, but more important than the way in which she spoke was what she spoke about.  During her keynote address Dr. Farey shared several images of religious art and then systematically explained the significance of the pieces to our faith.

In her introduction Dr. Farey said that the Contemporary Religious Artists Association(CRAA) is extremely important and of great value to the Church.  "We need to do all that we can to be a center of Catholic culture so that the fullness of our heritage can really inspire people," she said.  Then she dived right into her presentation and I found a deeper understanding of our faith with every word she spoke and I am greatly inspired to continue to learn more.

Virgin and Child by Quentin Matsys (1465-1530) from the Royal National Gallery in Brussels, Belgium

Regarding the Virgin and Child by Quentin Matsys (1465-1530), Dr. Farey pointed out that many people criticize religious artists for their portrayal of Our Lady in rich clothing.  They feel that it contradicts everything we know about her as a poor woman caring for her family.  Dr. Farey explained that paintings such as this are actually very scriptural.  St. Paul tells us that "He became poor so that we might become rich."  The infant Jesus' chemise is a foreshadowing of His burial shroud.  The Word of God is being read by Christ.  The background of this painting is clearly a church, and Our Lady's dress which fills the majority of the painting with lush red velvet, is meant to be the altar.  The color red that extends to the very bottom of the painting signifies His blood pouring out and down to all of us.  In the background the world outside can be seen which signifies that we are meant to take all of the grace that we obtain at Mass out into the world around us.  All is held by Our Lady as the grace of the Church and Christ through the priesthood.  As an Oblate of the Precious Blood, offering all of my daily joys and sacrifices for the sanctity and well-being of priests, I found this description of Dr. Farey's to be extremely moving and deeply meaningful.

Raphael's Crucifixion (1483-1520)

Raphael's Crucifixion, painted as an altarpiece, includes everything for the Mass.  The cross is the escape route that takes us to the heights of heaven.  Mary and John are looking out at us, inviting us into the scene, into the Mass.  St. Jerome with his hand extended below the cross is pleading for the Blood of Christ to heal him.  It's the penitential rite asking for the Mercy of God.  Mary Magdalene is in adoration. Her red dress, shot with gold, represents the moment after receiving Holy Communion, and she is adoring Christ in thanksgiving for all that she has received.  The waters in the back of the picture represent the waters of baptism through which we come to receive the Eucharist.  The angels are closest to the sacrifice.  They are still figures in contemplation.  They catch the Lord's Blood in chalices for the Mass.  We see the flesh and blood of Christ as the Host which suddenly enters the scene during the Mass as the priest elevates the Host during the consecration for all of the people to see, redeeming us from our sin.  Raphael's Crucifixion is alive with meaning.

For another deep and  fascinating explanation from Dr. Farey regarding this painting, visit David Clayton's website, The Way of Beauty.  Once reading this article, you'll want to visit David Clayton's site again and again to dive ever more deeply into the theology of religious art.  Like Dr. Farey, David Clayton is an internationally respected artist who gives so much to the Church through teaching and mentoring artists and those who appreciate religious art.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

God's Love National Religious Art Show

I had the great honor and blessing of attending the Contemporary Religious Artists Association (CRAA) Art Show in Kansas City, Kansas on July 12th and was so profoundly moved by all that I experienced and learned there that I feel my life will never be the same.  The theme of the show was "God's Love Portrayed in Art", and truly, it's impossible to simply view religious art that portrays God's love without finding that your entire heart and soul are expanded to love Him ever more deeply and to enjoy His love for you ever more fully.

My dear friend and art mentor Christi Jentz, had encouraged me to enter some of my poetry in the show and I was so pleased to find that all three of my entries had been accepted.  So Christi and I traveled to Kansas City by car, a nine-hour drive, for the opening reception of the show, and then she arranged for me to travel home by airplane, my first-ever flight, while she remained in Kansas to attend some of the art classes that are taught by world-renown artists such as David Clayton and Dr. Caroline Farey from the School of the Annunciation at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England.

I experienced so much beauty and joy in my short weekend stay that I will have to divide all that I want to share into several posts.  I found every single person that I met in the Archdiocese of Kansas City to be extremely warm and welcoming which put this simple wife and mother well at ease on my very first experience away from my home state without my family.  Elizabeth Zeller, the founder and director of the CRAA as well as the organizer of the art show, was especially kind and welcoming.  The show was held at the Savior Pastoral Center which is home to the Archdiocesan offices.  Upon our arrival, Christi gave me a tour of the building and once I discovered the intimate chapel on the lower floor it quickly became a favorite place for me to sneak away in the early morning hours for some time alone with God.

The work of the artists in the show was extremely high-caliber.  Everything was beautiful!  I truly felt like a fish-out-of-water at this event.  My favorite pieces are pictured.

The Art Show as it was being set up

another view of the art show being set up

Exchange of Hearts by Christi Jentz
Triptych of Book of Revelation by Christi Jentz

Coronation by Christi Jentz (from a stained glass window at the Basilica of St. Josephat in Milwaukee
bronze sculpture by Elizabeth Zeller, OFS, founder and director of the CRAA

bronze sculpture by Elizabeth Zeller, OFS, founder and director of the CRAA

bronze sculpture by Elizabeth Zeller, OFS, founder and director of the CRAA

photograph of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by Abbott Barnabas Senecal

For my contribution to the show, I chose three of my poems that were short enough to be easily framed with a photographic background that would meet the art show requirements of revealing God's love.  It was a thrill to see them displayed publicly and to receive words of admiration for them from people who are truly magnificent artists.  I not only framed them for the show, but also made them into note cards.  Both the framed poems and the note cards are available for sale, so if you would have an interest in making a purchase, please do send me an email and I'll be very happy to send them to you.  The 5x7 matted and framed prints are on acid-free photo paper with the words of the poem on acid-free vellum.  The cards are 4x6 on acid-free card stock with the poem on a vellum overlay attached with a ribbon.  They are blank inside for your own message.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Color Run

"I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith."  ~2 Timothy 4:7

pre-run photo
Last January, my daughter's school held a mother/daughter spa night which included a motivational speaker who happens to be an organizer of the Color Run.  She encouraged the girls to work hard, to get involved in lots of organizations, to put off dating until they were older and to focus on their education.  She told the girls that if they would write an essay about their life goals and send it to her, she would give them two free tickets to the Color Run, an international 5K that is billed as the "Happiest 5K on the Planet."

The day of the Color Run finally arrived, and my daughter and I, along with many of her classmates and their mothers, piled on the bus at her school and headed down to Miller Park in Milwaukee, the location of the Color Run.

The event included a pre-run party with Zumba Dancing and a post-run party with dancing and color explosions.  All through-out the run, there were stations set up where the runners were splattered with colored chalk.  By the end of the run we were a colorful mess, plenty tired, but very happy. Like Joseph we were coated in colors and felt loved by God and each other.  It was a perfect mother and daughter day!

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for opportunities to enjoy my beautiful daughter and to spend time with her doing things that enhance our health and well-being, for when we are healthy and happy, we have more energy to devote to bringing about Your Kingdom in this world.  Thank you for blessing us with family and friends who encourage us to be the best we can be and to use Your gifts wisely.


We did it!
(the photos are blurry because our phone was inside a plastic bag to keep it from being destroyed with the colors)
Mary didn't think she was colorful enough so she added her own shine!
The post-run color explosion.  My daughter and her friends are somewhere in that cloud of color.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Schoenstatt Shrine

My sister invited me to daily Mass at her parish, St. Vincent Pallotti in Milwaukee, to pray for my dad on the 8th anniversary of his death on July 1st.  Daily Mass at St. Vincent is quite early at 6:25 am, so after Mass I found myself with a little extra time on my hands before I had to leave for work.  I decided to spend that time in prayer in the little Schoenstatt Shrine that is directly behind the church.

The Schoenstatt Shrine is charming but even more so were the hospitable sisters that I found praying their morning prayers when I arrived.  How quickly they had arrived at the chapel following Mass!  I joined them in their prayers whenever I could, such as praying the Angelus, and when they were through they invited me to sign their visitor book, thanked me for praying with them and were very gracious when I asked about taking a few pictures.

This wasn't my first time praying at the Schoenstatt Shrine; I've gone there for adoration from time to time, but this visit moved me in a special way, perhaps because of the kindness that the sisters showed me, or maybe it was because my dad was praying for me as my sister and I were praying for him, and I could feel his love more deeply than ever that morning.

The original Schoenstatt Shrine is in Germany, home of the lay movement's founder, Fr. Kenneth Kentenich, and there are 180 replica shrines throughout the world, including four in Wisconsin. Mass is offered at the Milwaukee Schoenstatt Shrine, 5310 W. Wisconsin Avenue, on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, and Eucharistic Adoration is held from 9 am-2 pm Monday through Saturday.  To learn more about Schoenstatt visit this link.

Schoenstatt Prayer of Good Intention

All I experience today,
What I say and what I dare,
All my thoughts and all my actions,
What I love and what I merit,
All that I direct and conquer
All my joys and all my sorrows,
All that I am and have,
I give to you as a gift of love.

Use it so the holy stream of grace
Flows richly from this shrine
To win hearts for Schoenstatt
Lead there all those whom you have chosen
That the work we offer to the triune God
May be fruitful.  Amen.

I was impressed that the stained glass window portrays an image of the chapel

Our Mother Thrice Admirable is the centerpiece of every Schoenstatt Chapel-this year Schoenstatt is celebrating it's 100th anniversary so the banner across the altar and the candle in the center are in honor of that joyous occasion