Monday, January 25, 2016

Angel Gowns

Paul and I will be celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary this April.  I want to do something really special and Paul and I have been having some wonderful conversations, dreaming of plans together.  We'll certainly celebrate Mass and have our marriage blessed and we'll probably enjoy a special dinner with our family.  Maybe we'll take a little overnight trip away, just the two of us, which we haven't done since the babies starting coming along so many years ago.

But beyond all of those special celebrations, I want to do something that would have a lasting impact of good for others.  We've been so blessed in ways that others can only dream about and those blessings should not remain within our household but should spread to the world around us.  We thought about planting a silver birch tree to replenish the earth on our silver anniversary since the date lands so close to Earth Day, and maybe we'll still do that, but I want to do something even more meaningful.

Then, I came across the idea of donating my wedding dress and I just knew that this is what I have to do.  I certainly can't fit into it anymore, and even if I could, where would I wear it?  My daughter won't want to wear an old dress that will be out-of-fashion by the time she gets married.  For twenty-five years it has been sitting in a box inside a trunk where nobody can find any meaning or joy from it.  My dress, a garment rich in beautiful memories, symbolizing the happiest day of my life, is destined for a new life with a greater purpose.

I found a website, Donate My Wedding Dress,  which has many ideas on where to donate wedding dresses for women who are in poverty or women who are suffering other indignities in life and while I was still pondering all of those worthy causes, I learned about Angel Gowns. Throughout the United States, Canada, England, Australia, and perhaps many other places around the world, talented seamstresses give of their time to repurpose used wedding gowns into burial gowns for babies who are stillborn and they call them Angel Gowns.  Each donated wedding dress can be made into multiple burial garments which are all donated to Neonatal Intensive Care Units and funeral homes.  I think that each stitch of the needle and thread is a prayer of love and sympathy for the grieving families who must cope with such unimaginable sorrow.  The life of a child, however short, has meaning and purpose and the grief of parents who lose a child to miscarriage and early death is real and piercing.  I decided that I wanted my wedding gown to be used for burial gowns that will offer dignity and meaning to parents who must say good-bye to their children far too soon.

It took a few visits to several Angel Gown websites before I found someone who is currently accepting wedding gown donations.  I found her through Angel Gowns by Michelle, a beautiful website well worth a visit.  Linda, the woman to whom I sent my dress, has just started a website, Angel Gowns by Linda, and a facebook page, and is currently trying to raise funds to obtain tax-exempt status.  Please consider sending a donation if your heart is so moved.

As I wrapped my dress and hat in tissue and placed them in the box for shipping, I added a prayer for the future recipients and another one for the generous seamstress with the gifted hands.

Heavenly Father, you have blessed me in abundance with every good and lovely thing, and in particular, twenty-five years ago, you blessed me with a husband who has been my treasured companion each and every day.  In gratitude to you for your goodness, I give this dress, worn and kept with so much joy in my heart, as a token of my love and appreciation for the gift of all human life.  

Please bless the seamstress as she deftly takes the seams apart and creates a new garment of love for the little ones whose lives ended far too soon.  Please bless the parents and family members whose grief and heartbreak will rip and tear at the seams of their hearts for years and years to come.  May the gown that they place upon their babe bring them some peace amidts the tears.  And please bless the babies who have perhaps endured suffering and pain in their little bodies and are eager to join you in heavenly bliss for all eternity.

My Jesus, I trust in You and Your eternally wise and holy plan.  You make all things new and beautiful.  Thank You for the grace of Your love.  Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

From the Womb to the Tomb

At Old St. Mary Church in downtown Milwaukee, the creche is situated just below the 14th Station of the Cross where Jesus is lovingly placed in the sepulchre by his friends.  Here the birth of our Lord is placed so closely to His death.  How fitting that is for all of us live with the shadow of our death hanging ever near, never knowing when we may breathe our last, and preparing every step of the way for a holy death.  And the best way in which we can prepare for death is to take frequent advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. How perfect it is that the confessional is right between the two scenes of life and death, for the forgiveness of our sins was the reason that our Lord was born and it was for this that He died.

My Savior Jesus,

From the womb to the tomb your sole purpose was to free us from the burden of our sins.  Thank you for the beauty of your birth and for the redemption that your suffering and death brought to our souls.  May we remember to frequently take advantage of Sacramental Confession and Absolution and be blessed to rejoice with You forever in heaven for this magnificent gift!


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Parade of Magi

The Nativity Scene at Old St. Mary in Milwaukee

It felt like a long time since I'd had some quiet, alone time with the Lord, so I eagerly agreed to stay after Mass and wait for my daughter while she attended her Sunday school class as the rest of my family headed home.  I found a vacant back pew and waited for the last of the Sunday worshipers to make their way out of church.  A peaceful bliss ensued as I sat alone in the darkened church with Jesus for my only company.

But soon I noticed a young girl who quietly entered and sat in the back pew across the aisle from me. It wasn't long after that when the sacristan came in to prepare for the next Mass.  After he left, a young mother came in with her baby, softly cooing and they walked to the front of church to admire the Nativity scene.  Then three young men came in and walked around the perimeter of the church, quietly whispering and viewing the beauties of the church.  Next, a Sunday school teacher came in with her young students.  They sat in the front row of church in silent adoration.  Then the sounds of the choir beginning practice in the balcony above filled with space with joyful noise.  Before I  knew it my daughter was tapping my shoulder, telling me her class was over and we left church for the journey home.

I was struck by the steady number of visitors who came and went during the short space of time between Masses on the Feast of the Epiphany.  We were all Magi, looking for the Babe, hoping to give him the gift of our love, however briefly that might have proved to be.  The sight of so many people coming and going enhanced my own prayer and brought me to want to adore the Infant King ever more deeply.  I'm certain we were all made the better for drawing close to Him and are forever changed by His Love.

My favorite picture of a long-ago Ephiphany celebration in the Bender household.  The children are holding star-covered boxes filled with chocolate stars, starburst candies and starlight mints.  We had followed the star throughout our house looking for the Infant Jesus and when we found him we celebrated with King Cake.