Sunday, April 12, 2015

Divine Mercy Sunday Reflections and Resources

Divine Mercy Sunday, which is celebrated the second Sunday of Easter, falls on April 12, 2015.  This feast day which is growing in renown and popularity had an even richer significance May 1, 2011, because it also marked the beatification of Pope John Paul II who canonized St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of Poland and John Paul II, who established the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Original Chaplet of Divine Mercy Message

St. Faustina received from Jesus the message of Divine Mercy which He asked her to share with the world. In addition to the prayers of The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina was shown an image that she was instructed to have painted of the Blood and Water flowing out from Christ’s side and the words, “Jesus, I trust in You” underneath. The many messages she received from the Lord about His Divine Mercy, His love for us, and desire that sinners turn back to Him are included in The Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in my Soul.

My First Taste of Divine Mercy (in Chaplet form)

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a very powerful prayer said on ordinary Rosary beads. The first and second times I ever heard this prayer sung were incredibly moving. I can still remember very clearly the first time I heard this beautiful song version of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. A friend invited me to come to her Cursillo group reunion at Church of the Epiphany, the parish Kevin and I belonged to at that time. That particular Saturday morning, this group of women joined in the chapel and were going to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. 

I had never heard the song version of this prayer before and was so moved by the CD music and the beautiful voices of the women around me that I was brought to tears.  It was one of the times when I saw in my mind's eye a gathering of women of faith in our family each praying the Rosary.  I still hope and long for the day when our family members will come together to worship and praise the Lord in the same place at the same time.  

New Prayer for During the Consecration & a Memorable Presentation

Back then, I had been praying the Rosary for years, but singing this prayer said on Rosary beads and contemplating Christ’s Passion moved me very deeply. I love to sing and have often found music resonates with me. Sometimes I find myself praying the lyrics to songs that have touched me. In recent years, I’ve begun saying the words from the Chaplet: “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” while the priest is doing the Consecration at Mass.

Singing The Chaplet of Divine Mercy gives the meditation an extra dimension. The second time I sang/prayed this version of the Chaplet in a group was with a first year Confirmation class. One of the catechists I taught with that year put together an amazing PowerPoint presentation together to help us meditate on Christ’s Passion while listening and singing to the Chaplet on CD. The reaction of a roomful of teenagers was remarkable! They were very moved and kept talking about what an impression it made on them for weeks after that session.

Lay Leaders Sharing Divine Mercy

Back in October of 2008 when I served on my first Cursillo team, I explained The Divine Mercy message and we sang the prayer on the weekend. In August, when I served on a Christ Renews His Parish Women’s retreat team, I once again had the privilege of introducing to the team and candidates The Divine Mercy Chaplet through song.
    
When I met with a friend from VCU and her roommate to pray at the 40 Days for Life vigil one Spring, I suggested that we sing The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Only one of the women had ever heard it sung before, but they both agreed to try it if I’d lead. Standing on the corner singing the Chaplet with two strong women of faith was a very powerful experience. Interestingly enough, this friend has a well-worn copy of The Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in my Soul which she refers to daily.

Mercy on His Birthday
    
In 2010, our dear brother in Christ’s birthday happened to fall on Divine Mercy Sunday. In order to celebrate his birthday and the feast, he had a Divine Mercy party. Family and friends were invited to meet at his parents’ house to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together. It was a very special occasion and a great way to promote this devotion among loved ones.
    
To observe Divine Mercy Sunday in 2011, I met up our brother John and one of the high school students he was sponsoring for Confirmation, and we sang the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at our parish, then we prayed the Stations of the Cross together.

Great Mercy, Living Hope


Last year, at the very first team formation meeting we had for the Women's Cursillo Weekend held in April 2014, the rectora announced that since our weekend would be going on Divine Mercy Sunday that one of the things she wanted to include on the schedule was to pray the Chaplet together with our candidates.  After having to advocate and petition
 for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to be included in another women's retreat I helped put on, I was beyond relieved and overjoyed that was one of the few non-negotiables set right up front. Our theme for that Women's Weekend also reflected the celebration: "Great Mercy, Living Hope," and we had a beautiful image to match.  (By the way, I've heard that the other women's retreat also has now made the Chaplet a regular part of the weekend activities they plan as well.)

This year, I was reminded by a fellow prayer warrior and Catholic blogger to start the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy Novena on Good Friday through a Twitter/Facebook post of hers I saw.     
     
I am grateful for the Lord's Divine Mercy as well as for the many women and men in my life who have shown me the love and mercy of God. Thank you for being vessels for the Lord!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Things Are Not Always As They Seem and God Loves Me for Being Me

Things Aren’t Always As They Seem

On a Monday in March, I went to church to pray the Rosary before a statue of Our Lady of Fatima which was going to be at our parish for a few hours.  This was definitely one of the most beautiful statues of Our Lady that I have ever seen in person.   I’m very grateful that one of my Christ Renews His Parish sisters let us know the statue would be in our day chapel for a limited time only.  I stayed to pray the Rosary with the small group that had gathered, then I picked up my purse and rushed out the door.  I’m sure my behavior seemed suspect and possibly even scandalous to some. 

They were going to have Mass in the day chapel in a little less than half an hour, and I was running out the door.  I was the only one who knew that my intention was to make it to Mass at the Pastoral Center, which begins 15 minutes sooner and would be finished in enough time that I wouldn’t be late for work. 

I did make it to Mass, and I felt the whole day went better after having that solid block of prayer time.  I am always better off and generally more loving and peaceful when I make time for prayer, spiritual reading, and writing. 

Use It or Lose It

A dear friend who needed to finish rehearsal dinner invitations and send them out last month asked for my help with computer stuff. She is very honest and upfront about being technologically impaired.  I spent most of my evening into the night designing different invites for her to choose from.  I’m very comfortable using computers for writing, design, layout, all of it, so I just told her I’d take care of it. 

It has been nice to remember that I have some gifts that others benefit from and even appreciate.  Prayer comes naturally to me.  I thoroughly enjoy reading, writing, and promoting good books, all of which I have many opportunities to do.  I can design an invitation on a computer.  I can come mid-Monday morning to pray the Rosary with some of my Christ Renews His Parish sisters and slip over to Mass at the Pastoral Center. 

God Loves Me for Being Me?!

Even when it seems like there are so many aspects of my life that aren’t going right or aren’t what they “should” be or how I’d like them to be, I can still listen, offer love, prayers, and the skills I have in taking care of kids, writing, formatting, editing, coming up with fun art projects, photography, encouraging parents as well as design/layout work to help others.  

There are people who love and want to spend time with me, who miss me when I’m not around.  It’s good to be loved and have many ways to show your love to others.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Love of Little People (My Nanny Diary)

I happened to see a friend, the mom of the three silly sisters for whom I used to nanny, online last month.  I asked what they were up to, and we decided to meet at Deep Run Park for a picnic and some playground time.  It was great to see the girls, as always! 

Being there and chasing Sunshine, who of late has been introducing herself to people as Rainbow Dash, reminded me of when I used to take her to the very same playground when she was the one singular sensation in her family.  I have lots of photos of her at Deep Run on the swing and at the top of one of the slides she didn’t even bother going down that Saturday.  Most of them are beneath her.  Now, she’s on to bigger, higher, more imaginative things.  

“Will we ever see you again?” Sunshine asked while I was hugging and kissing her goodbye.  She reminded me that it had been a long time since I’ve come to visit them during the day while their babysitter is there.

“I’ve missed you, too!  And I’ll see you again soon,” I assured her.  “And since the weather’s nicer we can get together more like this.”

She seemed satisfied with that answer and her mom’s agreement that we’d figure out about getting together, again.    

Two weekends ago, we got to see each other three times: at her uncle’s birthday party, at Mass, and at her house for dinner Sunday evening.  I was starting to feel deprived of running hugs, so it’s good we got several of them in!  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Who me?! Yes, you. Couldn’t be. Not True!

It’s always been hard for me to believe that I may be who and where God wants me to be for now.  No one else seems to accept and be content with who I am, often including me.

At least I’ve stopped trying to convince God I don’t deserve His mercy, love, compassion, or grace.  He knows that better than anyone, yet He’s stubborn enough to love me anyway.  I try and do my best to accept His gifts on a deeper level, perchance to be a vessel for those blessings to reach others.
        

Two songs by one of my favorite music missionaries, Danielle Rose, have really got me thinking, praying, pondering, and, at times, even tearing up to think that I'm not supposed to be like somebody else.  I'm called to be the best version of myself, and you're called to be the best version of yourself.  


Do you ever struggle with feeling like you don't measure up?  Do you know of someone who feels like no matter what they do, it's never enough?  If so, I highly recommend listening to and downloading these two songs until they sink in, and then play them over again "The Saint that Is Just Me" and "You Matter," both are from her most recent album: Culture of Life.

Questions to Ponder: Have you ever asked God to show you how He sees you?  Would you consider bringing that question to God in prayer?  

I was shocked by what He showed me and very hesitant to believe it until he gave me uncanny concrete proof the message was from Him, not simply something conjured up by my own imagination and wishful thinking.  (I still have the uncanny concrete proof.  It's now framed and hanging in our place where I can see it every day as a reminder.)  

My Prayer: Dear Lord, please bless me on my spiritual journey.  Help me open up my heart so that the Holy Spirit is able to move freely in and through me to bring others closer to You.  Sanctify my mind, body, and spirit, so I am a strong, holy vessel for Your word, love, and Truth.  Give me peace that passes all understanding, a sense of deep, unquenchable joy, and a profound trust in You.  Guide me to choose Your will in all areas of my life.  Show me how precious I am to you, and grant me the ability to see myself and others through Your loving eyes.  Amen. 

What Is the Best Reason I Know to Have a Personal Relationship with God? I Am

Watch Out for Me!

While sick, I’ve been Kevin’s main living contact with the outside world, our family, friends, neighbors, and church this week.  I don’t necessarily consider this to be the best way to go through Holy Week, or any other week, for that matter.  

There are many reasons why Christ emphasized the importance of community as well as having a personal relationship with God.  I happen to be a prime example of some (rather several) of those reasons.

I have been known, on occasion, to get attitudinal, even snotty with my husband when he says he doesn't want to do morning prayer, the daily readings, or the Rosary with me.  Doesn't he understand how important these elements of faith formation and daily prayer are?  Probably not, if my reaction to his negative response is snippy or if I have no patience for him when I return from church activities.  

We Will Try Again

From the first moment I came in the door one day, I was being really critical of Kevin, grumpy, and ungrateful.  After a few minutes of being like this, I caught myself, and I decided to go back out the front door and start the whole evening over.  Unfortunately, when making my grand exit, I failed to unlock the doorknob or grab my key.

I stood there a second, basking in the irony, then I knocked on the door.
Kevin yelled, "Now what?!"  I quietly explained I wanted to start the evening over again and do things better this time, but I'd locked myself out.

He couldn't help but laugh and let me back in. That's one of the milder examples we were able to laugh about sooner than later, but I know I will never be as good at giving unconditional love, unrestricted compassion, or limitless forgiveness as God is.  My thoughts, suggestions, actions, and reactions are most often tinged with some measure of bias, self-centeredness, pride, or arrogance.  I’ve got a long ways to go before most of my words and actions are truly the kindest, most loving they could be in any given situation.    
Early on in our friendship and dating relationship, I worried Kevin would never be convinced of the beauty of a relationship with God because I was and always will be far from perfect.  I can only give him a small glimpse of God’s love.  The only way Kevin would see the light is to experience God himself.  If he looked to me for inspiration, guidance, and unfailing love rather than to God, then he and I would both end up in a heap of trouble.    

The Gospel According to You
 
Have you heard or read the classic poem with the above title?  (If not, you can read it here.)  Yikes! That really scares me!  I mess up all the time!  Though I have been a nanny, I can't at all relate to Mary Poppins' "practically perfect in every way." I rarely make it through an hour without saying or doing something that I probably could and should have done more lovingly. I want much better for my loved ones than what I am able to give consistently, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I’d rather people I care about had loved ones who are much gentler, kinder, empathetic, and holier than I am even at my best. Though, I really am trying.  

When Kevin was looking to me as his main example of a person of faith, it freaked me out.  I was his top priority, so he thought he should be mine.  This began some of our earliest and, at times, most heated debates about faith, religion, and priorities.  I wanted then and now for God to come first before everyone and everything else in my life.  By the way, that's part of my definition of "a spiritual diva," which is how I'm known in certain circles.      

I knew Kevin would (and does) need a direct relationship with the Lord in order to return to the Catholic faith in which he was raised.  Being close friends, then later dating me, was only going to make it more apparent that, though genuinely striving to discern and do God’s Will, I’m always falling short of the mark. 

And that, in essence, is why I am the best reason I know for having a personal relationship with God.

Questions to Consider: Who or what is my measure of genuine love, kindness, generosity, charity, and selflessness?  Am I inspired or discouraged by what I am observing from my role model?  Are my thoughts and actions pointing to God as being the infinite Source of Love, Truth, Beauty, peace, and wisdom or are they calling more attention to me? 

My Prayer: Lord, please help me keep focused on You, Your will, the graces and gifts You offer, and Your endless supply of love.  If I spend too much time looking at all I lack, I get discouraged and tend to go inward.  When I ponder Your many blessings and all of the miracles You have already worked in my life, then I am encouraged to move forward with the confidence that You will lead me and continue to bring about transformations I could never bring about on my own.  Amen.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

An Unusual Holy Week, A Happy Easter, and Another Special Anniversary

It’s Not Quite the Same Without Him

This hasn’t been like other Holy Weeks.  For the first time in years, I went to Palm Sunday, the Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil without my best friend.  I definitely missed sharing this most holiest of weeks listening, singing, and praying next to him at church. 

What kept me smiling and grateful to God even when my husband couldn’t be beside me is that he genuinely wanted to be there.  I have known the whole time while observing Holy Week in all its beauty at church that he was home, not because he refused to come with me, doesn’t believe in Christ’s Resurrection, or doesn’t see the value of the Sacraments, but because he wasn’t physically well enough to be present.  I did the Readings and told him about the homilies.  He was so bummed he couldn't be there.  

Church Family and CRHP Sisters   

I sat with family at all of the Masses, service, and prayer time over the past week. Each has been beautiful, memorable, and inspiring.  The music ministry at our parish is really amazing, and our deacons and pastor gave wonderful homilies.  I loved being able to look around the church and see so many people I know and care about gathered in prayer, singing, and praising the Lord. 

I’ve been excited for one of my Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) sisters ever since I found out her husband would be coming into the Church at the Easter Vigil.  I sat with her and some other friends I know through CRHP this evening.  We all were overjoyed to see someone we’ve known and been praying for over a number of years be Confirmed and receive his First Communion. 

We cracked up when his sponsor and another mutual friend immediately asked him about joining the Knights of Columbus right after the conclusion of the vigil.  One of them even had an application on them that they handed him right then and there.  Too funny!

A Special Anniversary for Kevin (and Me)

The first time my boyfriend visited me at Hollins University was in the fall of 1999, my freshman year.  We got into a heated argument because I insisted on going to Sunday Mass even though Kevin had driven over 500 miles to spend three days with me. He had fallen away from the Church and couldn’t understand how I could “waste” any of the precious time we had together by going to Mass. 

I went anyway because, to me, Mass on Sunday has never been an optional activity.  For me, it’s a blessing, an obligation, and a privilege.  I left for church not knowing if Kevin would leave me forever.  He didn’t. 

In fact, it was that evening when I returned that Kevin and I sat down and created a menu for our relationship.  After brainstorming a list of the most important things we want our relationship to be, Kevin noticed that if we rearranged the words they would spell out: LAUGHING TOGETHER.  To read some entries in my Laughing Together Series, click here.

The very next spring, Kevin came down to spend Holy Week with me, though he had been warned that I would be observing the holiest time of the year by going to the Foot Washing on Holy Thursday, the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil Saturday night, as well as Easter Mass on Sunday afternoon since I was a Confirmation sponsor for someone in our Catholic Campus Ministry. 

I witnessed a true miracle happen before my very eyes (and those of several credible witnesses): Kevin not only attended, but also fully participated in the Easter Triduum plus. 

That was a definite turning point.  Kevin said the Triduum helped him to understand the faith. He took part in the Sacraments, listened to a number of Scripture readings, responsorial Psalms, and participated by praying the prayers included in the Mass. 

After finding out Kevin had driven over 500 miles down from upstate New York to spend four days attending church with me, Fr. Remi Sojka, the priest who served our Catholic Campus Ministry, very aptly named Kevin “the patron saint of boyfriends.”


God Turns Another of My NEVERs into Something Much Better

Of course, I wished Kevin was well enough to join me this week, but I know what a tremendous blessing it is that for the past 15 years, ever since he came with me to his first Easter Triduum, he has had a better understanding of and a very deep appreciation for Christ's ultimate sacrifice and how we uphold the sanctity of His work through the Sacraments. 

Just one more thing I thought would NEVER happen that God turned into something BETTER than either of us could have imagined.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Rediscover the Significance and Sacredness of the Triduum: What Jesus Did His Last Three Days, We Do Now to Love Like He Does

This is an original work of art I created during Lent in anticipation of Easter and Spring.
Many people don't realize that Holy Thursday evening, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday through Easter Sunday are the three holiest days of the Christian calendar and are celebrated as one unbroken service known as the Holy Triduum.  This extended service held each year gives us a wonderful opportunity to pray and reflect on Christ's Passion, Crucifixion, death, and Resurrection.  It's also a neat opportunity to welcome new members into the faith through the sacraments of Initiation.  


This is a powerful time to come together with family, friends, and your church community to refocus on what is most important in life.  In order to be able to concentrated and observe the Triduum in all its fullness, I found subs to take my shifts on Friday, so from this evening through Easter, I am able to devote my time and attention to my primary vocations of serving the Lord, my husband, our family, friends, and community.

Lent hasn’t been the same this year for us.  We usually have made it to daily Mass and/or Stations of the Cross more often during this period of preparation and penance.  I’ve only prayed the Stations of the Cross once this Lent, and it was by myself before the Blessed Sacrament.  Though of less importance, we didn’t make it to even one fish fry or soup supper, either.    


Since Kevin has been so sick this week and is scheduled to work his usual shift over the next few days, I doubt he’ll be up to joining me for much, if any, of the Triduum.  I’m really bummed about this, especially since exhaustion and illness have often kept Kevin from being up for Mass come Sunday evening over the past few months. 

I’m trying to remain hopeful in thinking about what this holiest of weeks has brought about in terms of major changes in our hearts and relationship with the Lord and each other.  One of the biggest NEVERs in my life was that Kevin would NEVER return to the Catholic faith in which he was raised.  This is just one of many examples of how God can turn our NEVERs in to Betters.


Questions to consider and take to prayer: How has God been working in and through you in ways that you never thought possible?  What transformations have occurred in your life and in the lives of those around you that could only have happened through the grace of God?  What are the “Prints of Grace” God has left on your own heart and soul?  Now is a great time to think and pray about all that the Lord has done out of love and mercy for us.  That’s what this week and this life are really all about: recognizing, accepting, and spreading God’s unconditional love for each and every one of us.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Palm Sunday Explained and Expounded Upon

Palm Sunday for some is the day when they are handed long palms at church with which they can bop their siblings on the head and show their prowess at creating neat little green crosses. It’s a day when they can sit down and listen to the Gospel because the long account of Christ’s death includes significant suffering in mind, body, and spirit.
    
Some of the last words Jesus speaks as he suffocates and dies on the cross are not what they seem. For quite some time, I thought when Christ cried out ‘“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”’ (Matthew27:46) that He was feeling and experiencing a separation from God because He had willingly taken on all of our sins. My mom pointed out a Psalm that suggests this was not the case. It’s completely changed the way I see the moments before Christ’s death.
    
As any well-educated Jew at that time knew, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” is the beginning of Psalm 22.  Even as he gasped for his last breaths, Christ was speaking of fulfilling the prophecies of old and bringing new hope. Psalm 22 is called “The Prayer of an Innocent Person.” It includes many allusions to the specific types of suffering Christ endured during his Passion.
    
For example, it says “All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me: ‘You relied on the Lord—let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you.’” (Ps 22: 8-9) This is precisely what happened when Christ was made fun of, called the King of the Jews, beaten, spit upon, and forced to wear a crown of thorns and a royal looking cloak as his tormentors insulted Him.
    
“As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death” (Ps 22:16) describes his incredible thirst—one so strong for righteousness that He is willing to suffer the torture of humiliation and dehydration on the road to an even more painful death.
    
“They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.” (Ps 22:18-19) and Matthew 27: 35.
    
In verses III and IV of Psalm 22 are words of hope, courage, conviction, faith, and praise. Why is this significant if Christ only uttered the first line? Well, let’s see. If you hear or read: “I pledge allegiance…” or “Our Father, who art in heaven…” does it call to mind the rest of the pledge or the prayer? It probably does.
    
In Christ’s final hour, He was calling to mind a Psalm the Jews would know in its entirety. With a single phrase, He got them thinking about 32 verses of Scripture that are so much more than a cry for help. For scholars of the holy book, this brought to mind a portion of the Torah that describes a person who is tortured in a number of ways, but who through it all trusts in God and knows that the suffering will ultimately result in God’s glory and inspire a long line of believers.
    
Think of this during Holy Week, and see how it changes your view of Christ’s Passion and Good Friday.

Note: All Scripture quotations are from the NAB translation.

Copyright © 2008 This post was written and originally posted on my former blog: March 11, 2008

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Catholic Fire in Word and Deed


Now taken out of context this might sound like the beginning of an endorsement for pyromaniacs, but when considered as it was intended this quote which appears on Jean M. Heimann’s blog Catholic Fire, it can be the inspiration for us each to become the best versions of ourselves, who God made us to be.  

I was thinking about this quote the other morning when deciding how to spend my time.  There was a Cursillo Method training and a Christ Renews His Parish Flash Mob at church.  Another friend was home baking cookies for the Appalachian Twinning Ministry she heads up.  Several people just blocks from where we live were gathering to pray the Rosary as part of 40 Days for Life.    

I have often felt torn.  So many ministries, so much suffering, so much need, and I only have so much time, energy, and resources.  I’ve always been the hardest on myself when it comes to involvement with volunteering or time spent working on projects.  I feel like I can never be or give enough.  Instead of feeling grateful that I’m offering something, I tend to feel like it doesn’t matter, isn’t sufficient…

St. Catherine of Siena's quote struck me the other day, because there were many ways I could have spent my Saturday, but many of them would have been “shoulds” instead of “coulds.”  It's rather bold and daring to believe that if you're a person of prayer open to the goodness, love, beauty, and hope in life, then God can work in and through you in powerful ways. 

There is a great song by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir that reminds me of how God sees me and each one of His Beloved children.   I’ve written about both the song and included the video in a post called How many times do I have to tell you…?!   

I have read and admired the Catholic Fire for quite some time.  Jean always has write-ups about the saints that are interesting and informative.  She is a strong Catholic woman of faith, who isn't afraid to show her true colors or share her gifts with others.  

Yesterday, we had our monthly Theophostic Prayer Ministry gathering, and they were looking for someone to write a skit, write an invitation letter, and make a flier.  I've been wondering for some time how I could give back to the faith community in Chesapeake at New Creation who has blessed me so much through this ministry they learned about and have been teaching us over the past few years.  I was excited they happened to hit upon three things I love doing: creative writing, letter writing, and design/layout stuff.  Finally, a perfect fit for my strong suits and abilities, and a way to offer support to people who have shared a ministry with me that has completely changed my life. 

Questions for Reflection and Prayer: How is God calling you to use your gifts?  What if you did what you are passionate about in such a way that it brought others closer to the Lord?  How could your seemingly ordinary gifts set the world on fire or at the very least ignite a spark in someone else’s heart?  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lent and The Thirsting

Throughout this Lent, I’ve often thought of and listened to a song by The Thirsting called “Come Hold My Son.”  It’s a beautiful ballad from Our Mother Mary’s perspective as she was present with and for Jesus throughout his life, from conception to his death on the cross beckoning us to come and hold her only son. 

Last Saturday, I sat on one of the benches out near the grotto facing a replica of Michaelangelo’s Pietà and prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries.  I looked up at Mary’s face as she gazed at her son, and I tried to imagine what it would be like for a mother who has always loved her child dearly to let other people talk to, criticize, hurt, and abuse him the way they did.  

Throughout Christ’s life, Mary encouraged people to “come hold her son,” knowing from very early on that some people wanted to do Him harm.  She continues making this same invitation.  She beckons us to receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. 

Musical God Incidents 



Lead singer of the band The Thirsting Daniel Oberreuter was traveling through Richmond on the way to meet up with his Catholic band.  He did a concert at our parish this past January.  I talked my husband Kevin into coming with me, and we’re both really glad that we went.  The youth advocate at our parish Mike found this out and invited him to come speak to the middle school and high school youth.  Daniel not only did that, but he also played guitar and sang at all of the weekend Masses at St. Michael Church.  

The Thirsting is what you’d get if you smashed together R.E.M., U2, and Green Day, and made them all Catholic,” Daniel Oberreuter said.  Click here to listen to some of their songs.

Their work is all very faith-filled, often thought-provoking.  The versions we heard were mellower than they would have been if the whole band had been there.  Just Daniel and his guitar made for a more intimate evening of music.  Professional lights, sound gear, and obvious charm added to musical talent kicked things up a notch. 
  
I really enjoyed the concert! I like good music, meaningful lyrics, and people who are brave enough to go around the country/world sharing their talents as well as their Catholic faith.

A Man of Faith and Prayer

Daniel spoke about his wife and two young sons.  Most of what he shared had to do with his personal relationship with Christ and the Blessed Mother, which was jumpstarted when he was sixteen and began praying the Rosary daily. 
  
Pretty soon, he found a quiet place to pray while his family was down watching Seinfeld on TV.  It occurred to him that he probably wasn’t going to grow any closer to God by watching TV, but he could see how his relationship was already becoming more intimate as he meditated on the mysteries of the Rosary. 
  
Between songs, he shared stories about his life, faith journey, and struggles.  He emphasized the importance of the Sacraments.  One of my favorite songs that he wrote came to him when he was in front of the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration.  He felt that Mary was inviting him to come hold Jesus which inspired him to write “Come Hold my Son,” a beautiful ballad from Our Mother Mary’s perspective as she was present with and for Jesus throughout his life, from conception to his death on the cross.  This was one of the songs Daniel performed during Mass, so it already felt familiar. 

And the Award for Best Business Card Back EVER Goes to Daniel Oberreuter:

  
When speaking about the Rosary, Daniel took his out and showed it to us.  He gave a deeply moving reflection on each of The Sorrowful Mysteries, each time ending with the question: “Is ten Hail Marys really enough?” 

His story about beginning to pray the Rosary daily at 16 reminded me of when I used to wake up extra early, before everyone else in the house to pray the Rosary each morning when I was in high school.  It was very fruitful, amazing prayer time.  Many of the insights I received into the mysteries of Christ’s life as well as the grace from those quiet moments of meditation at the start of the day are still with me.

We purchased two of their CDs which Kevin and I listen to several times a week.  The Thirsting is most definitely another band on our list of faith-filled favorites.  
  
To get more info about The Thirsting, check out their website, videos on Youtube, like them on Facebook, and/or download their music, click here.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bergoglio's List

What lengths would you go to in order to protect people in danger of imprisonment, torture, and death? Bergoglio’s List by international reporter and legal journalist Nello Scavo shows us what a young Jesuit priest who has since become pope did long before he was in the limelight.

Horrifying things happened in Argentina in 1976 when their military overthrew the government and for nine years led a dictatorship hell-bent on annihilating any and all opposition.  Many knew and respected Jorge Mario Bergoglio—now Pope Francis—who was a young priest in Argentina at that time. 

Soon after he was elected to be the next pope on March 13, 2013, a number of allegations were brought up about his allegiance and actions during the junta.  Scavo set out to get the facts about Father Bergoglio’s role as a Jesuit leader during the so-called Dirty War.

This book is a result of Scavo’s investigation, research, interviews, and court case transcripts, and eyewitness accounts Fr. Bergoglio was then, as he is now, a humble man of God seeking to serve the suffering in whatever ways he can.  During the nine year period of atrocities, the Argentine military abducted, tortured, and/or murdered 30, 000 people. 

What could a relatively young Catholic priest do in the face of such carnage?  Protect as many as he could from the military’s grasp using his connections, courage, and the conviction that he had to act in the face of such evil.  And that’s precisely what he did.   

Some have accused Fr. Bergoglio of turning a blind eye to what was happening around him.  They’ve said he did nothing to stop the vicious attacks on fellow priests, friends, men, women, and children.  Bergoglio’s List has mostly been discovered in the years since the junta.  The young priest helped save over 100 people the military intended to torture and/or murder. 

Some he was able to warn in advance.  Others he risked his life to plea for their freedom and spare them from torture.  A person who is holy and respectable possesses these traits even in the most dyer circumstances. 

What would Jesus do?  Probably exactly what this well-known Jesuit did: save as many people as he could from the atrocities of his time. 


I highly recommend reading Bergoglio’s List.  A great film this made me think of, though a different priest, circumstances, and a different time of war is The The Scarlet and the Black.  It’s definitely worth seeing and will give you an idea of the danger and secrecy necessary to protect people when the military was running the horror shows.  I received a free copy of Bergoglio’sList in exchange for an honest review.  For more information, or to purchase your own copy, click here

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Will You Be a Good Neighbor and Help This Family?

A family needs your help.  Five people who are very caring, loving, and giving are in need of your prayers and, if possible, your financial support.  Please check out this link for more info: 

Save the Dinas from Foreclosure 

I don’t usually share requests of this nature over my blog, but this particular one has hit closer to home than most.  Since my husband Kevin and I have experienced the tremendous stress of having unexpected, really high medical bills, we have a great deal more compassion for others facing such hard times.  Though we regularly give to church, various charitable organizations, and help family and friends in need, there was a time when we found ourselves struggling to pay the bills.    

I am still absolutely amazed at how people came together and were there for us.  I’m not sure how we would have gotten through that tough time of surgeries, a parent’s funeral, unemployment, and illness if we had not had people of faith to lift us up in prayer and step in when we’d run out of physical, emotional, and/or spiritual resources.  Sometimes, we’re given a chance to give back to people who are always giving so much of themselves.  This is one of those times.   
 
How Big Is a Mother’s Heart?

Sara is a pro-life advocate, mother of three daughters, and has served as the Campaign Director for the 40 Days for Life in Alexandria for a number of years.  When Sara and her family found out about a mother and daughter seeking refuge from a foreign country where Christians are being persecuted, they welcomed them to stay and live with them for a few months.  On another occasion, an African mother who was pregnant found out that their family is pro-life.  This woman with no knowledge of English and no family or friends lived with the Dinas for a year.  

My mom, a pro-life advocate, mother of three daughters, has served as the Campaign Director for the 40 Days for Life in Richmond.  When women in crisis and their children have needed a safe place to stay, my mom has opened the doors to her home and invited them in.  Some people stayed for a matter of days, others for weeks, some for many months.   

Clearly some mothers have hearts that reach far beyond the love and relationships in her own household.  A nurturing wife, mother, volunteer, Respect Life leader, pro-life advocate, and friend is a tremendous blessing to her family as well as her community.  Let’s do what we can to support these remarkable mamas! 


What can you do to help the Dina’s?  They really need your prayer cover right now.  Your financial support could also make a huge difference.  For more info about the Dinas and their circumstances, and/or to donate, click here.  There are only six days left for us to pitch in!

God Nudges (My Nanny Diary)

A year ago December, God nudged me, again.  He told me it was time to move on. It didn’t make sense to me or to Kevin.  I was the one with a steady income when Kevin had been out of work for six months.  Why would I stop working for a family we love, and leave what I know how to do to risk not making ends meet?  Because God made it clear to me it was time. 

How did I know?  My husband and I both prayed about it and agreed that we were getting the same message from the Lord.  Also, as I said I was given strength, courage, and peace to do something I didn’t think I could go through with.  I gave the family five weeks’ notice, so they’d have ample time to look for another childcare provider.  I offered suggestions and said I’d be happy to help in the interviewing process of other potential candidates.  

My separation anxiety wasn’t nearly as severe this time, because we are good friends with the family and still spend time with them.  Kevin and I are each Godparents to one of the twins.  We’ve often been invited to the girls’ birthday parties, holidays, and big family gatherings. 

Once in a while, I’ll stop over and visit the girls.  We save them seats on the end of a row when we go to the same Sunday evening Mass as they do.  The girls are always excited to see us.  They come over, want to be picked up, sit on our laps, and snuggle up to us.  Most importantly: they know we still love them lots!  

Discernment Review (14 months later)

Recently, I have seen some more of the reasons why God nudged me to move on, ones I couldn’t possibly have foreseen.  The main and most obvious one: Kevin was out of work for over a year, always looking for a new job but not finding anything until last November.  We needed the income I make working at school to make ends meet during that time. 

I’ve felt encouraged and inspired by the creativity and ideas my coworkers have, the child education trainings I’ve taken, and the on-the-job experience I’ve gotten working in different classrooms, with a variety of age groups and teachers. 

I’ve been able to pick up some steady hours that allow me to make it to daily Mass, if I’m so inclined.  I haven’t been so exhausted in general for a number of reasons, in part due to some significant changes I’ve made to my diet.  I also had the time and energy to serve on the Women’s Cursillo team last April as well as begin our two year spiritual direction course. 

The moral of the story: When God says move on, just do it!  The reasons why might be clearer with time, and/or you're more likely to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit the next time you hear the Lord's still small voice calling you to trust and follow Him in all aspects of your life if you test what you discern in prayer, confirm it with others, and heed it.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations, Prayers, and Memories

Michele Morris gave me the hat I'm wearing in the opposite photo before she entered Carmel. She wasn't handing it over as a sign that she was giving up her sense of humor or enjoyment of the dramatic.  Fortunately, both are still intact.  

She bequeathed it to me, because I'd included a similar-looking one in a photo collage I once made her in honor of her initial visit to see the Carmelite Sisters by the Sea.  (I'll post the What Not to Wear Religious Vocation special edition I made for her another day).  

He's All Mine!

"The top o'the hill to ya!" Kevin said.  "Isn't that what the Irish say in the morning?"
"Um, you mean top o' the morning to ya?" I said.
"Oh, yeah." 

Kevin prepared a nice home-cooked dinner one St. Patrick’s day.  He brought my plate out to the table then quickly took it back into the kitchen. 
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“You’ll see.”  He soon came back and set the meat in front of me proudly: “It's corned beef!” He had put one kernel of corn on top of my steak.  Yup, that’s my husband!

Two Popular Posts on St. Patrick and Ireland:

St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer the popular prayer in its entirety

Our Pilgrimage to Ireland some stories from when my mom, sisters, and I made a pilgrimage to Our Lady Queen of Peace House of Prayer

A Wee Bit of Singing and Dancing (My Nanny Diary)


When I was taking care of “my two little guys,” I’d often play the Water from the Well CD by The Chieftains. We’d sing and dance around the kitchen to the lively music at a particular wee one’s house (who actually had red hair as a little lad).  

This morning, I was trying to think of the name of the group and could not for the life of me remember it.  Fortunately, Kevin did.  Here is the most fitting song from that album for my man of many talents (and tools):

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