Thursday, February 23, 2017

St. Joseph, My Hero


O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.

This prayer is sometimes printed with the following information:  This prayer was found in the fifteenth year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves, shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect of them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy; or shall be burned in any fire, or shall be overpowered in battle. Say for nine mornings for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail.

Image result for greenfield apartment building fire
photo credit: JS Online

In the middle of February I had been blessed to take a Monday off from work and planned on spending it with my daughter who was off from school that day.  I'm usually up and dressed by 5 am but since I had the day off I was enjoying a leisurely morning and was still lounging in my pajamas at 6:30 am when the phone rang.  My son, Joe, was on the other end and I listened, not quite believing what I was hearing, when he said, "Mom, my apartment is on fire and we're trapped on the balcony!"  I took a second or two to absorb the obvious panic is his voice as he shared this horrific news and then asked him if he had called 911, which he had. I told him I was on my way.  Mary and I quickly dressed and drove to Joe's apartment as fast as we safely could, praying all the way.

We had to park three blocks away because the street was closed by the police.  We ran most of those three blocks until I couldn't run anymore.  There were multiple fire trucks on the scene when we arrived.  We went to the back of the building where we expected to find Joe still on the balcony but all we found was a solitary police man.  My panic was evident and he reassured me that everyone had gotten out of the building safely and that they were all re-located to the apartment building next door.

the ladder in back is leaning on Joe's balcony

Tears of relief were flowing from everyone's eyes as we found Joe and his girlfriend, Cici, and embraced them.  We looked around and saw so many people looking completely dazed and many dogs and even a bird among the residents who had been displaced from their homes.  Joe had said that he woke up when he smelled smoke and then woke Cici.  They saw flames coming into their apartment door and the room was so smokey that they couldn't find the cats.  Had they not had the balcony to escape to I don't think they would have survived.  We were greatly relieved when the firefighters brought both of Cici's cats, one by one, safely back to her.  The cats were shaking badly and needed a little oxygen and anti-nausea medication at the vets, but both are fine.

What a blessing it was to be on the receiving end of other's generosity and kindness!  Joe and Cici were showered with support that will be of great assistance to them as they work to rebuild a home and replace all of their belongings.  But the greatest blessing of all was that they survived the fire physically unscathed.

I completely credit St. Joseph with saving their lives.  As we were driving home later that day  Mary said she was thinking about St. Joseph and how the angel woke him up so that he could take Mary and Jesus and escape from Herod to Egypt. She said she had a feeling that it was St. Joseph who woke Joey up so that he and Cici could escape the fire.  I didn't realize the powerful providence behind Mary's gut feeling that day.

The following week as I was waiting to pick Mary up from work, I pulled one of my prayer books out of my purse and found the Ancient Prayer to St. Joseph. I don't know why I even looked at that prayer, what brought me to that page out of all the pages in the book at that time.  Maybe it was St. Joseph who tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I want to show you something."  When Joe was still living at home he had this prayer taped to the wall by his bed and he prayed it every morning. But even if Joe might have forgotten about St. Joseph when he grew up and moved away, St. Joseph did not forget about him.  When I read all the way down to the last sentence below the prayer and saw "nor be burned in any fire"  I was stunned!  Mary was right! St. Joseph obviously has a love for this young man named after him, this young man who had a youthful devotion to his patron saint.  

I will be thanking St. Joseph for saving Joe's and Cici's lives for all of my days. He truly is powerful with God and a perfect patron for Joe!  I'd been neglecting St. Joseph and that prayer but I won't anymore!  He is officially my hero!

the stairs leading to their apartment after the fire

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mother and Child in Sea Glass

Working on this sea glass mosaic under the guidance of St. Mark and Our Lady brought me peaceful memories of warm and quiet days walking the beach to collect the bits of glass.  I'm pleased with how this turned out and am ready to begin another mosaic.  What a wonderful way to pray!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Year of St. Mark the Evangelist

Image result for getty images st. mark composing his gospel
Each January for the past few years I have enjoyed participating in Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint Name Generator where, after saying a short prayer I click a button and a saint comes forward to accompany me for the coming year. This year St. Mark the Evangelist is my prayerful companion.  I find it especially providential that the Gospel readings at daily Mass just happen to be from Mark so I have been paying extra close attention to them.  I've also spent the past month reading and reflecting upon the Gospel of Mark, the shortest of the four Gospels to be written, in my daily prayer time.  What a great way this has been to immerse myself in learning about my friendly saint and the Lord as well!

In researching St. Mark I found so many different stories and they all seemed to contradict each other. In the end I'm not sure what is really the truth of his life but will share what I found to be the most fascinating aspects about the saint.

St. Mark had traveled with Paul and Barnabas and was possibly a source of contention dividing the two in their evangelic travels.  In the end, all made peace and Mark was known to be a great help in spreading the good news of Christ.

St. Mark was a close friend and possibly a relative of St. Peter during the early years of Christianity, and it was from Peter that St. Mark learned about the life of Jesus.  St. Mark payed close attention to Peter's preaching and recorded everything that he learned from our first Pope, and that's where I feel that I just may have something in common with my 2017 patron.  Most of the blog posts that I share here are taken from my notes written while listening to moving homilies or talks given by great priests.  In addition, St. Mark is a patron of imprisoned people, so there's a connection with the title of this blog, too.

In St. Mark's Gospel he mentions a man with a water jug at whose house the disciples were to prepare the passover.  That house may have belonged to Mark's mother, Mary.  His Gospel also mentions a man who ran away naked from the Garden of Gethsemane. There is speculation that St. Mark may have been the man with the water jug and the man fleeing from the Garden.  He is also mentioned as having been present at the wedding at Cana where water was changed to wine.

St. Mark is identified with a lion because he begins his Gospel with St. John the Baptist described as a "voice crying out in the wilderness." St. Mark was martyred in 68 AD when he was dragged through the city of Alexandria for two days until he died.  His relics can be found in Alexandria and at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice.  St. Mark's Feast Day is April 25th.

St. Mark is the patron saint of stained glass window makers, although I haven't been able to make a connection as to why that might be so other than the fact that he painted pictures with his words.  But with that patronage I've decided that this will be the year that I will work on making more sea glass mosaics under his guidance.  From the time I started collecting sea glass ten years ago I had always thought that I'd like to make a mosaic of the Virgin Mary but never thought I would be up to the task and had no idea about how to begin on my own.  So it must have been St. Mark's influence that caused me to discover a lovely mosaic of Mary and Jesus made by a woman from Helsinki that was shared in a sea glass group on facebook, and upon seeing it I knew that I, too, could piece together the same image.

My friend Christi of Lumen Christi Art who designed and helped me to make a Sea Glass Tree of Life mosaic two years ago had sent her Milwaukee Journal Sentinel entry for Christmas Artwork, the icon of "Mother of God of Tenderness," as a Christmas card this past year. Of the icon she wrote:  "Christ draws our attention to His mother and there is an additional detail of love where we see that Jesus' arm is around His mother's neck.  The little face tenderly pressed against His mother's face is Christ Immanuel, the Glory of God and Creator of all."  

Using Christi's icon and my new friend from Helsinki's art as examples I have begun the work under the patronage of St. Mark.  Our Lady's face was certainly the most difficult part so far and I'm nervous about bringing Jesus' face to life after the difficulty I had with His mother's face.  I'm sure that if I would try to replicate this mosaic I would make lots of changes the second time around to improve it, but for a first effort on my own I'd say it's going pretty well and I am learning a lot.  I only have so much glass available to me so using limited supplies poses a challenge, as well.  My mosaic definitely has more of a folk art feel than classic art but I am enjoying the work and the deep prayer that accompanies the task.  The image below is my humble beginning.  I'll be sure to share the finished project in a future post.

Prayer (source)
“O glorious St Mark, through the grace of God our Father, you became a great Evangelist, preaching the Good News of Christ. Obtain for me I pray you, lively faith, firm hope and burning love; patience in adversity, humility in prosperity, recollection in prayer, purity of heart, a right intention in all my works, diligence in fulfilling the duties of my state of life, constancy in my resolutions, resignation to the will of God and perseverance in the grace of God even unto death. Through the same Christ Our Lord, Amen.”

Here's a nice reflection on St. Mark by my friend, Fr. James Kubicki, SJ from the Apostleship of Prayer.