Friday, May 22, 2015

Michele Morris Update and Prayer Request

Michele Morris is doing fine, but she is very much back in the throes of discernment and would appreciate any love, intercessions, etc. you'd be willing to send her way. I have full confidence God will lead her where He needs her and knows she will most glorify Him next (because He's always done so in the past, sometimes in miraculous ways), but she wrote in her most recent letter to me that some extra prayers right now would be "a great source of comfort and encouragement." Michele doesn't have internet access, but she can write and receive letters at least for the rest of the month of May. Here's the address: 
Michele Morris 
c/o Queen of Angels Priory
5813 W St. Martha's Ln.
Hulbert, OK 74441

Last week I finally resent the Glory Bee to God sign I'd made to her in a package along with a belated Easter card, a cute little journal I found I think she'll like (it's bright green and has a bumblebee and flowers on it) and two books I loved and think she'll really enjoy: I Believe in Love by Jean C. J. d'ElbĂ©e and In God's Womb: A Spiritual Memoir by Edwina Gately, and my usual epic-length letter. Hopefully this time she'll actually get the package. I got it back when I first sent it to Washington state when she was living with the hermits there.  I'm still not sure why it returned with an insufficient address stamp on it. If at first you don't succeed, try again. 

Please pray for Michele! Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Mother's Heart

I love this post called The Wide Spectrum of Mothering (by a non-mother who blogs).  I feel all women will be uplifted to read this.  

Over Mother's Day weekend, I had a number of glimpses and reminders of what constitutes a mother's heart.  Here are some of them:    

Last Friday night at the Ultreya, we greeted a couple who lost their only son to suicide.  That particular parish is a bit of a hike, but I knew it would be worth the trip if only I could give the young man’s mom a huge hug and tell her in person that I’ve been praying for her and her husband.  The two of them have continued their ministry to youth, and they are such models of love, strength, courage, and compassion.  My heart aches, there are no words, only prayers.   

The woman who gave the witness talk spoke about the conversion of her grandson who came to live with them for a brief period of time.  She thought she and her husband would plant a seed of faith in him and hoped that it would grow.  Little did she know that he would be a catalyst for her to reconnect with Christ through daily prayer and meditation.  

A dear friend who made her Cursillo weekend with me was in attendance.  During the prayer intentions she prayed for her sister who died of breast cancer thirteen years ago last week and asked us to lift up another strong woman of faith, Cursillista, and mutual friend who has been hard at work in our diocese for years and is now facing a serious battle against breast cancer.  My heart aches, there are no words, only prayers. 


I think of a Mother’s Day not too long ago when Kevin and I were at dinner with the family friends who have adopted us into their clan.  When someone came and handed each of the women at the table a rose, Kay Marie and I hesitated to accept ours.  Kay Marie has been the spiritual mother and grandmother to countless children through the years she and her husband led the Rachel’s Vineyard Ministry in our area and in their involvement in 40 Days for Life.  Not long after I got to know her, I came to consider her one of my “other mothers.”  Because she didn’t give birth to or legally adopt any children, she didn’t really consider herself to be a mom.  I can’t think of many people as loving, tender, gentle, caring, kind, and selfless as she was.  She certainly had a mother’s heart. 

I think of “my two little guys,” the ones for whom I nannied for the first couple years of their lives soon after Kevin and I tied the knot.  They’re in elementary school now.  I’m not sure if they even remember me, but I will always have a special place for them in my heart.  Memories of their smiles, laughter, and triumphs, right alongside their booboos, blowouts, and brawls still surface regularly. 

The joy on my mom’s face when she’s holding her grandson, watching him play, telling stories about his latest adventures has no parallel to anything in my life.  The joy in Kevin’s eyes as one of the three silly sisters who is particularly fond of him, leaps into his arms, and whispers in his ear that he’s her best friend.  My heart aches, there are no words, only prayers that my loved ones will experience moments of joy and love far beyond what I can give them. 


The most beautiful gifts and blessings are people.  I have not brought life into this world, but I have celebrated and rejoiced over the lives of others.  I have not given birth, but I have changed many diapers, dried many tears, and treasured the precious moments, hours, days, and years when I’ve held and loved each little baby, toddler, young person God’s placed in my arms.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fulfilling a Mission

This is Captain Courageous. Someone else drew him and provided
the coloring page. I just colored him in, because art is good for the soul.
Note: No attempt has been made to copy the appearance or
attire of my student.  My only hope was to capture the vivacity
of his spirit and usual happy-go-lucky attitude towards life.
“I just wanted to come and say goodbye to you,” he told me, looking very serious. 

“Really, where are you going?” I asked.  It was hard to hear his response over the dull roar of 25 plus kids gallivanting about on the playground, but I thought he said something about 16 days. 

He kept talking, and I did my best to listen.  I heard only bits and pieces of what he was saying, but when sound bites about “going on a mission” and “superheroes” reached my ears, I figured I should sit down and hear him out at eye-level.  I knew this was going to be good.  

He told me matter-of-factly that he needed to leave for a mission that would involve “fighting bad guys to make the land safe.”  He would be gone for “six tens,” which I guessed to mean 60 days.  He leaned in for a hug and told me goodbye.  I wished him well.

About ten minutes later, he came back over and took a small package of candy out of his coat pocket.  “I want you to have this so you won’t forget me while I’m on my mission.”

“Oh, honey, I could never forget you,” I told him. “You don’t have to give me something so I’ll remember you.  I won’t forget about you while you’re away on your mission.”

He nodded and put the candy back in his pocket, then went off to bid farewell to a couple other teachers.  

Another fifteen minutes passed, and this adventurer under age six came up to me, again.  In a low voice, he asked me not to call him by his name anymore.  “I’m going to have to change my name for the mission,” he explained. 

“Okay, sweetheart,” I said.  “When I see you I’ll just say hi instead of saying your name.  Got it.”

This reminded me of countless other experiences I’ve had when young people tell me about a job they need to go do, a mission or trip that they’ll be going on.  Sometimes I can tell from the get-go that what I’m hearing is a figment of an active imagination, but in other instances, it’ll be a few minutes of the little one talking non-stop before they throw in a detail that lets me know they’re spinning a yarn not recounting actual events that happened to them. 

If Batman, Spiderman, or My Little Pony is among those named in the adventure, I know we're in the land of make-believe.  When parents, siblings, and other actual people and plausible situations and circumstances are involved, I figure it could be truthful, at least in part.  

I receive daily reflections from the Henri Nouwen Society blog via e-mail, and “Fulfilling a Mission” was the theme of the excerpt of his writing selected for one day this past week.  You can read it here.

It's true.  We may travel far and be gone for a long time on our journey, but God always goes with us.  “My home is within you” we’re reminded in Psalm 87:7.  After a time, He bids us return home for rest, reflection, and to share what we have learned.  Not only places, but also people can constitute “home” for us.    

Questions for Reflection: How seriously do we take our mission in this life, the vocations to which we are called, and the particular roles and tasks God asks of us?  How do we discern which missions are meant for us?  Are we silent long enough to listen to what it is God wants of us?  Do we put limits on where we’re willing to go and what we’re willing to do for God?    


Prayer: Lord, help us be open to Your missions for us in this life so that we may be better able to enjoy eternity basking in Your love. Amen.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Lord of the Rings Will Not Disappear

I lost my engagement/wedding rings last week.  Everyone kept asking how I managed to do that. It was pretty easy, actually.  You see, when the weather is nice, I spend an hour or more outside supervising kids on the playground at school after their nap/rest.  The day it happened, I was out on the playground at the house with three other teachers and 30+ kids running around. 

Someone fell and scraped off the scab on his elbow.  He came up to me asking for a Band-Aid.  I took him inside to do First Aid.  As per best practices (and DSS regulations), I removed my rings, washed my hands, and put gloves on before I got him cleaned up.  That time I put my rings in my pants pocket.  After sending the young man back outside, I removed my gloves, washed my hands again, and put my rings back on.

Within 15 minutes, a girl came up to me who had a splinter in her hand.  I took her inside and repeated the removal of rings, hand washing, and put on gloves before administering First Aid.  That time I put my rings on the kitchen counter by the sink. 

Oftentimes, I’m able to get splinters out without having to use tweezers, but this wasn’t one of those days.  I was rushing because the teachers were already having kids line up to go across the parking lot for carpool.  After tending to the most recent boo-boo, I quickly cleaned up, removed my gloves in the prescribed manner, and stuck my rings in my pants pocket. I ran out the door to begin the portion of my day I spend with elementary school students. 

It wasn’t until around 5pm when we were crossing the parking lot to go back over to the house that I realized that I didn’t have my rings on or in my pocket.  I figured they must have fallen out somewhere.  The top pockets in my black cargo pants aren’t that deep.  I retraced my steps that afternoon once my shift ended.  I went back to the main building, searched around the library and tech lab where I supervise the students who are in what we call the Hub after school. No luck. 

I checked outside around the plaza and walked through The Wishing Woods to North Campus, staring carefully at the winding gravel and sand path, then I checked the hallway and classrooms where I had been in that building.  I returned to the library and checked on top of, under, and around chairs, tables, the floor, and desk near where I had been sitting.  No bling. 

I stopped at the front desk to see if anything had been turned in, but my rings weren’t there.  I returned to the house and checked the kitchen another time.  I asked my supervisor and co-workers if any of them had seen it around the house.  No one had. 

That evening, my supervisor sent out an e-mail to all staff and faculty to keep an eye out for my rings.  Once I’d given up the hunt for the day and headed home, she and a co-worker went so far as to empty the trash cans in the kitchen, downstairs, and in the library to make sure they hadn’t fallen in there.  They were worried that if they had ended up in the circular file, they'd be gone forever once the cleaning crew came through that evening to vacuum and empty all the trash cans.  That thought hadn’t even occurred to me. I was fairly certain they had fallen out of my pocket while I was walking around.  I was and am tremendously grateful for their help and concern.

For some reason, I felt certain my rings would be found.  I was upset that I couldn’t find them, but I had a sense that they’d turn up eventually, so I didn’t panic.  I prayed to St. Anthony to help me find them. 

The next day, I subbed in a primary classroom, so I was at school from 8am-5:30pm.  I would likely know right away if/when my rings were found.  Several teachers asked me how I had lost my rings, why I had taken them off, and where I thought they might be.  I explained I had to put gloves on to do First Aid, and I had to remove my rings because the engagement ring could tear the gloves.  Everyone expressed their concern and said they’d definitely be looking for my rings. 

Someone called my name as I was headed over to the house to eat my lunch after my morning shift ended and before my afternoon ones began.  A primary teacher ran towards me with a big smile on her face.  She’d found my rings!!  I was so incredibly relieved.  Where had they been?  In the library, near the chair where she’d seen me sitting the day before. 

It took me a little while to process the significance of what had just happened.  I'd checked around the library more than once.  A co-worker had gone back over after I left to search that same area. She had been so thorough in her search that she’d even gone through the trashcan.  The cleaning people had come and vacuumed that evening.  Several people were in and out of the library that morning, but it was a co-worker spotted them and brought them to me.  I thanked her profusely and praised God.  He was certainly involved if that many people combed the area and couldn’t find it and the cleaning people had come through and had also missed it.

In the end, God is Lord of the Rings, our marriage, friendship, faith, and peace of mind.  

The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom

One Saturday morning in March, I began reading The Inner Voice of Love: Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen.  It is a collection of the directives one of my all-time favorite authors wrote for himself in a diary when he was going through one of the most difficult periods of his life 1987-88.    

Knowing that I devour books and read extensively, particularly on topics of faith and spirituality, a dear friend asked if I’d read this particular work.  I hadn’t, so I immediately put it on hold at the local library, so I’d get to peruse it the next time it became available for check-out.  

As good fortune would have it, I had it in my hands sooner than later. They recommend taking this one slowly, but I couldn’t resist reading it straight through.  I highly recommend The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey through Anguish to Freedom to read as a book and to learn as part of healthy self-talk!

It never ceases to amaze and even astound me how perfectly Nouwen speaks to my heart, mind, and soul through his very honest, beautiful, and vulnerable writing.  I’m encouraged by his writing and willingness to share so openly the struggles he’s had with faith, self-worth, seeking attention and affection from others, discerning how to live out his vocation, and hesitancy to share about his most intimate suffering. 

The Return of the Prodigal Son is one of my favorite works of Nouwen and one of the most beautifully written reflections and meditations on the love of God for each one of us that I’ve ever read.  Nouwen wrote and published this classic work soon after this period of struggle.  The diary entries and directives he’d written for himself seemed too personal and too raw to share at that time; it wasn’t until eight years later that he was ready and willing to share with the world what became the book The Inner Voice of Love.

I get very sorrowful when I think that all I’ve suffered has been solely for my own purification and sanctification and isn’t of use, consequence, or interest to anyone else.  It gives me hope that some of what I have lived through, experienced, prayed, struggled with, journaled and written about might be of help to others. 

I have already seen how sharing what God nudges me to about my journey has helped people in the past.  There have certainly been times when I’m nervous and rather uncomfortable talking about what feel like such private, embarrassing, or weak areas of my life, yet, somehow,  when I feel called to let others know what has happened in my life with the intention of giving them hope, offering them practical suggestions, and/or encouragement along with prayer, then I’ve been able to talk with others about even the ugliest aspects of my life and myself. 

There is still a pull within me to be a writer who inspires and helps to heal others, like Henri Nouwen, Joyce Rupp, Kathryn Hermes, and others have been for me.  If it is only through personal letters and one-on-one relationships with people that God wants to work in and through me, then I am willing.  If I’m called to work towards publishing articles, essays, and books that are more widely read or accept invitations for larger speaking engagements, I am open to that as well.    

Lord, guide me as I discern how, when, where you want me to use the charisms you have given me, including that of writing and sharing with others.  It is far too easy to fall into thinking that what I have to say, what I’ve been through, what I’ve learned, and come to in prayer are of no interest or use to others.  Please help me remain true to a spirit of prayer and honest discernment, so my motivation for what I write and what I share comes more from you than from a selfish desire for approval or acceptance.  Amen.    

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
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