Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Grace of Enough Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture by Haley Stewart


The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living Morein a Throwaway Culture is a great book about getting back to basics—nature, family, community, shared meals, local farms, Natural Family Planning, moral values, neighborliness, and faith. 

What wholesome elements are missing from your life?  This book will help you not only identify what those areas are, but also gives practical suggestions of what you can do to get back to a lifestyle that is more family/relationship oriented. 

Much of Haley’s inspiration comes from Scripture and the encyclical exhortation On Care for Our Common Home: Laudato Si by Pope Francis.  Her many quotes from Laudato Si make me want to go back and reread my copy of it. 

A year-long stint on a farm really opened up Haley, her husband Daniel, and their young children to what’s important in life.  They lived in close quarters with family, were immersed in nature, and found themselves knee-deep in community living.  Their family thrived and together learned many lessons in love, kindness, compassion, how to be a tighter family as well as better stewards of the earth and its resources.

I highly recommend The Grace of Enough for anyone who wants a closer family, better relationships in general, a closer connection to nature, and/or a deeper sense of community.  
  
To connect with Haley Stewart, check her out on Facebook at Carrots for Michaelmas or follow her on Instagram @HaleyCarrots

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler


One Beautiful Dream is in the style and includes the great humor I came to expect of Jennifer Fulwiler when reading her blog Conversion Diary.  Among other things, Jen is a great storyteller.  I have always enjoyed her wacky anecdotes about raising little ones, grappling with faith, pursuing her writing, and dealing with one crisis after another.  This book addresses the very real struggle many women face when they attempt to raise children while also pursuing their dreams and passions in life.

In Jennifer’s first book, Something Other Than God, she details her conversion from atheism to Catholicism.  It’s a very good read, but much more serious than I thought it would be after following her journey on Conversion Diary.  Click here to read my review. 

I was laughing out loud at some of the situations Jen found herself in while pursuing her “one beautiful dream.”  Some stories brought back fond and others not-so-great memories of being a nanny for young children.  The chapters entitled: “Poopocalypse,” “Beer Bong Playdate,” “Advent Rock,” and “Decibel” all elicited memorable incidents I’ve had with little ones. 

During a retreat, Jen got some great advice from a priest named Fr. George.  He suggested that she “[do] the work that God is calling you to do, but do it as one part of something bigger—your family” (p. 129).  From then on she looked at her “blue flame” (what brings her joy) of writing as something that she could include her family in as she did it.  This change in perspective helped her stop thinking as an individual and unite her passions to the overall mission God has for her family as a whole. 

As writer, Sirius XM Radio Host, and budding comedian, Jen Fulwiler concludes in her book and her daily life that you can have it all—family and dreams—if you’re willing to rethink exactly what that looks like and when everything will come to pass. 

I recommend this book for anyone who has or works with children, is a Christian, and/or needs a good laugh.

See the latest updates on the Fulwiler family at OneBeautifulDream.com

You can connect with this author/mom/radio show host/comedian on Instagram @JenniferFulwiler. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Blessings Abound: Confirmation, Ordination, and First Communion

Vivi receiving her First Communion from
Fr. John Baab, her uncle and Godfather.

In the past two weeks I’ve witnessed a number of joyful occasions filled with blessings.  On Wednesday, I was inspired to go to daily Mass at St. Mary’s Church at 9am. I was delighted when I got there and found out it was a school Mass.  I attended St. Mary's School during 5th, 6th, and half of 7th grade before we moved again.  The new principal and his wife and three children were there to witness him coming into the Catholic Church.  He received his Confirmation and First Communion at the Mass.  What a beautiful thing to witness as a church and school community!

Thursday evening, Bishop Knestout came to St. Michael the Archangel Church to confirm 93 of our youth.  In the fall, I’d taken a slip of paper with the name of a Confirmand and a prayer on it.  I promised to pray for the person during the months leading up to his or her Confirmation.  For the first time ever that evening, I got to meet the gentleman for whom I’d been praying.  I next to the youth minister who I served with at Church of the Epiphany years ago soon after Kevin and I were married there.  She remembered my youngest sister Theresa's Confirmation and that I had been her sponsor.

Deacon Anthony Ferguson and Bishop Knestout after
the Ordination to the Diaconate Mass.
Saturday morning, my mom and I went to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart  to celebrate the ordination to the diaconate of Anthony Ferguson.  The Mass was again quite beautiful and filled with graces.  Sunday morning, I returned to St. Mary’s with my mom for Deacon Ferguson’s first Mass.  He gave an amazing homily, really knocked it out of the park.

Sunday evening, I was back at St. Michael for Vivi’s First Communion.  She’s the oldest of the silly sisters for whom I nannied for several years.  Her uncle/Godfather Fr. John Baab presided at the Mass and had the privilege of serving Vivi her First Communion.  A number of family members and friends in the area were there to support her.  We all enjoyed a meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant afterwards.

Lord, thank you for the many opportunities you’ve given me this week to celebrate and rejoice in the Sacraments.  Please bless all who have come into the Church, received their First Communion, and been Confirmed with a deeper sense of Your unconditional love and limitless mercy.  Amen.
St. Mary's Church on Wednesday morning May 15, 2019.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Heart of Perfection by Colleen Carroll Campbell


The Heart of Perfection: How the Saints Taught Me toTrade My Dream of Perfect for God’s is an amazing book.  Colleen’s prose have a literary quality often missing from other Christian nonfiction books I’ve read and reviewed over the years.  I can identify very well with her sentiments as a recovering perfectionist.  I’m sure the only way she has managed to balance a successful career with being a homeschooling mother of four has been through the grace of God.

This look into the lives of certain saints comes through the lens of a working mother, recovering perfectionist, and an honest sinner who’s sharing the wisdom she’s gleaned through living and struggling.  I love how she weaves Scripture and the biographies of several key saints into this in-depth study of why and how we should “trade [our] own dreams of perfect for God’s.”

Colleen treats the saints as imperfect friends and mentors rather than holding them up as flawless models of humanity.  She shows how they needed God’s grace in order to seek and do His will every bit as much as we need it. 

Though very well-researched, this book has a welcoming vibe rather than a stilted academic feel.  Colleen goes deep into the lives of saints, sinks her heart into Scripture, and willingly examines her own life in light of perfectionist tendencies and human failings.

She has an acute awareness of how much our attitudes towards God, ourselves, and others have a profound effect on our relationships.  If we’re spending most of our mental energy critiquing our every fault and flaw, then were likely to pass that dissatisfaction on to others.  If we accept God’s grace as a necessity, then it’s easier to deal in a gentler way with our loved ones, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. 

Colleen illustrates how growing spiritually requires heaping helpings of grace.  We can’t make progress in the faith life without first acknowledging our desperate need for God’s love and mercy.  Once we accept those two freely given gifts, we have the foundation we need to grow closer to Him, and, thereby, help others do the same.  “There’s something about God’s love that simply can’t breathe unless we share it with others.  And the more we share it the more His joy floods our hearts.” (p. 76) 

One of the chapter titles really caught my attention: Stalking Joy.  This concept of actively seeking joy appeals to me a great deal since I easily forget how much God wants us to be joyful.  We are much more attractive as Christians when “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).  Colleen writes that “We need to pursue and protect joy, to recognize it as a source of supernatural strength without which we can’t hope to love others or God.” (p. 74).

We need the communion of saints and the people around us in order to grow.  “Admitting you need the companionship of other Christians striving for holiness isn’t elitism; it’s a mark of humility and spiritual maturity.” (p. 61)

This book brings up the topic of holiness and through comparisons and stories reminds us that we are called to be saints.  It made me think of a beautiful song by a music missionary I love named Danielle Rose.  “The Saint That Is Just Me” is written about how aspirations to be holy need to be in line with our own call and sanctification, which won’t look exactly like anyone else’s.

I highly recommend The Heart of Perfection for any Christian who struggles with perfectionism.  Colleen Carroll Campbell’s other book My Sisters the Saints is one I read, reviewed, and loved as well.  Click here to read that review. 


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Courageously Uncomfortable by Lisa J. Goins

There’s a pattern in what I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to lately: they all include aspects of courage and vulnerability.  

In the past, I’ve written about Living the Lie that Everything’s Fine.  I’m familiar with the concept and how it can easily play out in my own life.
 
It’s true. God often calls us to step out and step up in ways that are outside of our comfort zones—at times way outside of them.  By examining the stories of certain women in the Bible, Lisa J. Goins illustrates how we can get beyond our sinful, sordid pasts to do something great for God, which He has always intended to accomplish in, for, and through us. 

The four questions at the end of each chapter are thought-provoking, and, at least in my case, would take a page or more of journaling to answer in earnest.  I didn’t write in this book because when something inspires me, I like to pass it on.  These questions made me uncomfortable, which tells me I’ve got lots more work to do in this area of my life. 

Lisa uses personal examples as well as from those in her “squad,” but I would have liked to see a few more in-depth stories from her own life, particularly regarding what she’s overcome in the past with the help and forgiveness of the Lord.  She alludes to an array of challenges, but she doesn’t go as deep as she could about any one. 

I appreciate the author’s sense of humor incorporated into the book, specifically when she is telling her own tales of woe and woah.  I admire Lisa for putting herself out there through writing, publishing, and promoting her book.  All of those steps require courage and mean overcoming a certain level of being uncomfortable. 

I recommend reading Courageously Uncomfortable if you happen to be a Christian woman who struggles to feel worthy, lovable, capable, and/or useful to God. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

A Christian woman of faith who devours books like I do recommended that I read The Book of Joy.  I'm so glad that she did.  It's a wonderful look at what brings true joy into our lives by two spiritual prayer warriors of our time.

For Christmas, my mom gave me Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee.  I read and loved the practical suggestions and explanations for what brings us joy.  I figured I'd keep on reading on the same theme only from a spiritual perspective.

The Book of Joy includes some wonderful exchanges from two very well-known spiritual leaders of different faith traditions.  They are dear friends who have a deep respect for one another and a profound reverence for God. 

They share their own spiritual practices, how they have overcome significant oppression and hardships, and the ways that they maintain a joyful existence regardless of outside circumstances.

I highly recommend reading this book.  It's a beautiful account of a long-term friendship between two elderly men from whose wisdom we can all learn.   

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year from Trisha and Kevin


We hope and pray that 2019 
is filled with even more 
blessings, laughter, and joy 
than the previous year.  

Merry Christmas to All From Our Family to Yours!




As always, we gathered at my mom's to decorate homemade
Christmas cookies.  I even got Kevin to decorate one this year.

Kevin and I enjoyed a beautiful night at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

This miniature chapel was one of the displays
in the Lewis Ginter Library.

Our nephew loved the red headphones that
we gave him. Theyd been on his wish list for months.

Theresa and the purple princess playing with the purple Playdoh
her brother gave her. 


Monday, December 10, 2018

First Snow Day of the Season, 2nd Week of Advent, Let It Snow!

St. Michael the Archangel Advent wreath in the sanctuary.
We went to an earlier Mass than usual this second week of Advent since it had already started snowing.  We stopped at Kroger beforehand for some fresh produce (neither of us drink regular milk or eat regular bread) and got out unscathed.

We played Scrabble while listening to Christmas music and sipping hot chocolate.  Kevin makes his with a coffee base while mine is a peppermint tea/hot cocoa masterpiece.

The little Christmas tree our friend John gave us is lit up, though, bare of decorations as of yet.  Our homemade Advent wreath and the wooden nativity set from Uganda are both still in our closet.

This past Friday evening we went to the Advent Concert at our parish.  They've had it along with a spaghetti dinner put on by the Knights of Columbus for the past 15 years, but this was our first time going.  It was wonderful!  If only we hadn't sat right behind a disruptive boy in the children's choir, we could have enjoyed it even more.  The kid would not stop talking, and it was driving Kevin and me nuts.  Ironically, the song I got on video was "Let There Be Peace on Earth (and Let It Begin with Me)." 

Saturday we went to Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (when the Blessed Mother was conceived without sin) and got to sit with the Baab family.  People commented on how happy Kevin and I are when they're around. It's true.  More than one person assumed they are our nieces.  I explained how I used to nanny for the girls and that we've been adopted by the Baab clan.

It was snowing enough I didn't think we'd be heading over to my mom's to decorate the family tree Sunday afternoon like we'd originally planned.  We'll have to do that tradition and the one of making and decorating Christmas cookies together some other time. 

Today is our first snow day of the season.  I'm fine with that.  I just finished reading a good book and have two more from the library. There are plenty of Christmas movies old and new for us to watch.  We're stocked up on soup, hot chocolate, tea, and paper products, so let it snow.

If you're interested in reading more about our family's Christmas traditions or could use a laugh if your events with family and friends are less than Hallmark perfect, check out my series on Christmas Merrymaking Mishaps featuring: Caroling, Cookie Decorating, Tree Selection, Nativity Sets.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self by Joyce Rupp

We all go through many doors during each day, but do we think about the significance of them?  
I didn’t ponder this nearly as much until reading this book that is meant to be read over a period of six weeks, but which took me significantly longer to get through. The imagery, invitations to meditation, original prayers, and passages are so rich I didn’t want to rush through Open the Door and possibly miss some of the ah-ha moments I reached through reflection over a period of several months.
I began reading Open the Door last May.  I filled up two pages of my journal contemplating the type of door there is to my heart, one of the suggested exercises presented early on.  Another question that kept me writing for a while is: “Who are the significant people who helped you find the concealed door to your deeper self?”  My list contains a number of family members and friends as well as those children for whom I nannied.
Using the metaphor of doors to our heart, Rupp talks about the importance of being intentional regarding the spiritual life.  There have been a number of times over the past six months that I haven’t been good about setting time for prayer, reading spiritual books, or sitting in sacred silence to discern God’s Will.  I’ve felt distant from God though I have been able to be present and fully participate at Mass.  Reading this book and answering the questions within has helped me identify where, how, and why some changes could make things better in my faith life.   
Regardless of where you are in your spiritual journey and what the door to your heart looks like right now, there is something in this book, probably many things, that will inspire you to move into a deeper relationship with the Lord and a better understanding of yourself. 

I’d definitely add this to the list of Joyce Rupp books that I absolutely love which includes but is not limited to: Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment 
  To find out more about Open the Door or to order your own copy, click here.  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  

Friday, May 4, 2018

Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederkehr

I first discovered and came to enjoy the reflections of Macrina Wiederkehr several years back through her multiple entries in the magazine Living Faith.  Seven Sacred Pauses by this author is a collection of prayerful, lyrical meditations on the Liturgy of the Hours.  It’s not a how-to book describing the right way to pray them, but instead, an offering of contemplations on those special times of the day.  Who better than a Benedictine sister who lives in a monastic community to put a new spin on an age-old tradition.
There are original prayers, poems, and personal stories included for each of the seven sacred pauses that are filled with beautiful imagery and profound ponderings.  Reading this book was praying for me.  It calmed me, made me contemplate many aspects of faith, love, charity, service, and mindfulness.  Seven Sacred Pauses opened my heart to new possibilities. 
The closest I have come to praying the Liturgy of the Hours has been when I’ve used the Magnificat magazine for my daily prayer times.  I’ve never had my own breviary, and I worry it would make me anxious to have so many prayers I’d feel like I should fit into the day. 
I could certainly handle picking one prayer from each of the suggested ones in Seven Sacred Pauses and use those to help me “live mindfully through the hours of the day.”  I could make my own little prayer book to use or I could put my favorite prayers that I haven’t yet memorized on my phone.  I could also pray the Liturgy of the Hours using an app and cease to stress over how many of the prayers I manage to get to each day.  We'll see how God leads me to more time with Him.  
I highly recommend Seven Sacred Pauses for anyone who would like a fresh perspective on the Liturgy of the Hours.  Seven Sacred Pauses: Singing Mindfully Dawn Through Dark by Velma Frye is a companion CD available to go with this book.  I have not heard it, yet, but I’d like to.
I received a free copy of this book from Ave Maria Press in exchange for an honest book review.
For more information or to purchase your own copy, click here

Macrina's musings can also be found on her blog www.macrina-underthesycamoretree.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

Being brave, courageous, and also, vulnerable are challenges I continue to face and appreciate reading about.  Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown is another book well worth reading, as all four of her other books have been. There’s an art to standing up for yourself, yet still being kind and gentle with others. 
Through personal stories and using examples from her ample research, Brené talks about how confronting shame, embracing the desire for true belonging, and forging ahead are necessary steps for fulfillment in life.     
The four main principles of the book are:
1.      People are hard to hate close up.  Move in.
2.      Speak truth to BS. Be civil.
3.      Hold hands. With strangers.
4.      Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
 So what are the characteristics of a wild heart?  “The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid—all in the same moment.  It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind” (p. 155).
The title and wording of this book make me think of a movie I saw many years ago that spoke of bravery, courage, and standing up for yourself.  The movie that came out in 1991 is called Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.  In the film, a young woman with a passionate spirit goes against what everyone else is telling her is possible and advisable.  What she does is both very daring and very dangerous.  The stakes are high, but her spirit isn’t broken even after a serious accident.  
She’s definitely left standing alone as she pursues her dreams.  Vulnerability, bravery, and courage are necessities she doesn’t have the luxury of leaving behind.  Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken is both a statement about certain horses as well as the female lead of the film.  It’s also a message loud and clear in Braving the Wilderness.  We can triumph over adversity if we remain unabashedly true to who we are regardless of the situation or circumstances.          
For a researcher-storyteller-professor-public speaker like Brené, that’s sometimes meant wearing jeans and cowboy boots when the prescribed dress code calls for business attire and saying no to speaking engagements that would compromise her integrity because they’d be limiting what she talks about and how.  For the rest of us, bravery and courage might look completely different.  The point is that we discover who we truly are and refuse to deny that identity when others are upset, confused, or bothered by it.    
“Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation—especially our own (p.158).”
I am often reminded of how vulnerability and courage can go hand-in-hand as I listen to the talks the women on team for the upcoming May Cursillo have given during our formation process.  It is nothing short of astounding what some of these women have lived through.  Their courage in sharing their witness with others is both brave and inspiring to me. 

I highly recommend reading Braving the Wilderness along with Brené’s other books.  For more information about the book or Brené Brown, click here

Monday, April 9, 2018

An Enjoyable Team Overnight at Shalom House

This past Friday, the team preparing for the May 17-20, 2018, Cursillo had our overnight at Shalom House.  Being back there always holds good memories for me as I was there for the last team on which I served in April 2014 as well as for each of the retreats we had during our Spiritual Direction Institute two-year course. 
We didn’t have assigned rooms, so I plopped my things down in a front bedroom without knowing who would claim the other twin bed.  While waiting for the rest of the team to arrive, I went and sat in the hammock, gazing up at the trees.
 I thought about how I’d rather be an evergreen tree instead of the kind whose leaves fade, turn brown, wither, and fall to the ground.  Having sustenance, being able to provide shade and beauty year-round seems more desirable.  I know in reality my faith more closely resembles a deciduous tree.  At times, there are little buds and leaves sprouting after a long, barren winter.  During other periods, the leaves are full and green before they go out in a blaze of glory.      
We had a delicious dinner of stuffed shells with meatballs that one of the team members who is on staff at Shalom House prepared.  Dessert was angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream.  The food there is always very good!  
The Reconciliation service we held in the living room of the house where we were staying.  Fr. David Stanfill, who is one of the spiritual directors on our weekend, was there to hear confessions.  He was joined by Fr. Alexander Muddu, who is the pastor of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Ladysmith.  Another one of our spiritual directors, who is also our main man for music, Mike Walsh, played guitar throughout the service.  Sometimes we would join in singing various hymns.  We also read aloud a series of examination of conscience reflection questions. 
Several people hadn’t finished their homework for the weekend, so they were up late talking, laughing, and hurriedly writing.  I used the time to relax, journal, and draw.  I rejoined the gang in the living room for a bit before turning in for the night. 
In the morning, we shared breakfast together and then did affirmations for each person.  One of the ladies gave us her talk.  Lunch was a Shalom House favorite: taco salad.  Before heading out, our various groups had break-out planning sessions. I’m serving on the Liturgy team this time.  I drove home feeling a deeper bond with the team and with greater anticipation and excitement for the upcoming Cursillo.  Mission accomplished.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp

Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp, a six-week program towards deeper awareness, attitude, and action, has been my companion over the past couple of months.  Prayers of Boundless Compassion is a perfect complement and extra resource to this process.  Joyce Rupp has for many years been one of my favorite authors, so I was thrilled when given the opportunity to read and review two of her latest books.

Her beautiful prose and prayerful poetry kept the literary side of me content, while the concepts, questions, and reflections on compassion challenged me to keep growing.  I have a long ways to go to grow into a person of unconditional love and boundless compassion, but Joyce Rupp presents some basics to jumpstart the journey.  For me, the concept of needing to have three things in place for there to be compassion—awareness, the right attitude, and subsequent action—really opened my eyes.

I still have little scraps of paper near where I sit to have my breakfast in the morning to remind me of the four principles that are the foundation of compassion toward self as well as other people: mindfulness, forgiveness, nonviolence, and nonjudgment.  If I took nothing else away from this book, I could easily remember three things needed and the four foundational aspects of compassion.  With those memorized, I can be quickly drawn back into the lessons I’ve learned.

Each day begins with a quote and ends with reflection questions, a prayer, and a Scripture verse.  There are six topics, one for each week of the study.  On the seventh day of the week, there is an invitation to reflect and review the material from the previous six days.  I moved rather slowly through Boundless Compassion because I wanted to spend time with each of the meditations and prayers.  I was often inspired to journal my answers to the reflection questions, as they really provided some food for thought.   

As I read the daily reflections, I also chose a prayer or two each day to pray from the Prayers of Boundless Compassion book.  I would highly recommend using the two books together.  I did the study on my own, but the way it’s set up, it would be perfect for a group as well. 

I rarely reread books unless they really speak to me.  There were several passages I read more than once, and I plan to hold onto both books as a resource for future prayer on my own and with faith groups of which I am a member.  

It is my sincere hope and prayer that one day I will get a chance to meet Joyce Rupp in person and take one of her workshops on Boundless Compassion.  


Click on the following for more information about Joyce Rupp or to order your own copy of Boundless Compassion or Prayers of Boundless Compassion.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Our 18th Triduum as a Couple: The Memories, the Anticipation, and the Joy

On Monday of Holy Week, we had a special EDGE night for our middle schoolers.  We set it up so they could get a taste of what they would experience if they came to take part in the three holiest days of the Church calendar, the Holy Triduum.  

Each middle schooler and their small group teachers got a chance to pray the Stations of the Cross in the sanctuary, wash each other's feet (or hands), and then they came to the parish hall where I talked with them about the significance of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. 

For my presentation, I used some PowerPoint slides I’d made and some pictures from a very special Holy Week in 2000 when Kevin had come down to spend the Triduum with me.  It was after that whirlwind of church services together that led Kevin back to the Catholic faith in which he was raised and away from which he’d fallen for decades.

I ended my presentation with a photo of Kevin to which I’d added a halo for dramatic effect.  

After all, the priest ahead of our Catholic Campus Ministry when I was at Hollins University had found out he’d driven over 600 miles to spend four days going to church with me and aptly named Kevin, “the patron saint of boyfriends.”

This year, Kevin and I were grateful we were both well enough to participate fully in our 18th Triduum as a couple.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since Kevin returned to the church and began going to Mass on his own. 

Thursday night we went to a different parish in order to hear our dear brother in Christ, Deacon John Baab, preach.  Friday night we returned to our parish, St. Michael the Archangel, for the Veneration of the Cross.  We were awed and amazed by the beauty of the service.  It was extra special that Vivi, the oldest of the silly sisters for whom I used to nanny, was there with her dad.  It was her first time coming to Good Friday service, and she did well. At one point, she fell asleep on my lap for a little while. It was very sweet.

The Easter Vigil was quite the event.  There were several Baptisms, Confirmations, and First Communions in addition to the usual series of readings and songs that serve as a summary of the Catholic faith.  The environment, liturgy, and music were nothing short of breath-taking.  Kevin and I were grateful to be there and happy I’d been able to talk my mom into joining us.

Afterward, we went to IHOP to celebrate Easter, a tradition we’d begun years ago with our beloved brother John.  

Today the feast continues at my mom’s place.  We’re looking forward to celebrating this Easter season with family and friends!

GOD'S NOT DEAD, HE'S SURELY ALIVE! ALLELUIA!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Loss of a Loved One, Giving Spiritual Direction, and The Seven Sorrows of Mary

A few months ago, I gave spiritual direction at an Ultreya for the first time since Kevin and I went through the Spiritual Direction Institute (SDI).  I was actually pretty excited since I'd served in every other role at Ultreyas with the exception of that one.  The woman giving the witness talk has been a friend of our family for many years.  She told me she was going to speak on the Seven Sorrows of Mary and asked if I thought it would be an appropriate topic in the middle of Advent.  

I said definitely!  I could think of a number of people who were facing their first holiday season without a loved one.  It's hard navigating those first few months not knowing when you'll be knocked over while riding the waves of grief

Here’s how I began my spiritual direction reflection that evening:  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” we hear over and over again during the Advent and Christmas seasons.  Well, for some it’s a difficult period to get through, especially if it’s the first holidays since a loved one has passed away.  I know I tend to think of my dad and grandparents who have passed away when our family gathers.   

Over the holidays, many people concern themselves with buying gifts for people.  In fact, some get really caught up in that aspect of getting ready instead of concentrating on spiritual preparation.  What does God want for the holidays and all holy days?  He wants the best we have to offer!

What greater or more perfect gift can we offer the Lord than Jesus Christ Himself?

I’ve gotten in the habit of praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for a person when I find out they are near death or have already entered into the next life.  One of the prayers exemplifies the best gift we can give God: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and the Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.”

I also shared with the Cursillistas gathered a prayer I know in both English and French that is perfect for devoting all we have and are to the Blessed Mother.  The following is an excerpt from the Act of Consecration to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, by the Hands of Mary by St. Louis de Montfort: “In the presence of all the heavenly court, I choose thee this day for my Mother and Queen. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present, and future; leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and eternity.”

Christ’s Passion (a great sorrow) leads to Our Eternal Salvation (our greatest joy)

With deep love can come piercing sorrow and profound joy.


Reflection: How has the Lord used one of your sorrows to bring you and/or others closer to Him?

My Prayer: Lord, please open our hearts and minds to the ways in which dealing with sorrow and grief can help bring us closer to You and one another. Amen.
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