Currently : Contemplating St. Michael

Currently,
St. Michael (Boston College- Gasson Hall)

Currently,  I am thinking today about the feast of St. Michael the Archangel also known as Michaelmas. This feast is shared with the angels Gabriel, and Raphael. Michael is first mentioned  in the Old Testament book of Daniel in strengthening and promising to help Daniel after he has a vision of things to come for the people of Israel. (10:13-21) Then again in Daniel 12 ,when Michael is noted as a “great prince” and protector of God’s people. In the New Testament, in the book of Jude, Michael first “argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses” (Jude 1:9). Then in Revelation, Michael is shown triumphantly leading the forces of heaven to defeating the fallen angels following Lucifer. (Rev 12:7-9) Michael is considered the patron saint of the Church on earth, for a holy death, police, soldiers, paramedics, travelers by sea, and sickness.

While science has been so helpful in explaining so many things in our world, there remain these beautiful reminders that God is always seeking to communicate (Gabriel), to guide (Rafael), and to protect (Michael) his faithful[1].  How grateful I am to know that we have this heavenly assistance in battling the evil in this world.

Prayer of St. Michael: St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who wander throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Thankful for//  the gift of the “Tiny Saint” Michael necklace by my friend for my son Thomas. For any of you that are unfamiliar with this company they carry a large product line of these tiny saints on charms, bracelets, rosaries and necklaces. Each features either a biblical reference or description for the saint with the item. Thomas has been sleeping with it under his pillow since he received it last Friday.

Enjoying// God’s gift of beautiful weather this weekend! In New England, we have to cherish these gifts of warm, almost summer like weather, in the fall because we know the cooler weather is on the horizon. So, Saturday we headed out with beach towels, snacks, drinks and a football to Long Beach on the Plymouth, MA coastline. How amazing it was for this mom to close her eyes, soak up the sun, and simply listen to the ocean and the laughter in the background. I couldn’t help being inspired though, and snapping a few photos!

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Loving// my new Loyola Institute of Pastoral Studies t-shirt! As some of you might know, I am a graduate student of Loyola Chicago’s Pastoral Studies Program. How can I do this living in Massachusetts?  Well, as you may have guessed, the majority of my work is through their phenomenal and engaging online program. Utilizing interactive programs like Sakai, Adobe Connect, and Voice Thread, students are challenged to read, reflect, collaborate, write and engage one another through virtual classrooms. It leaves nothing absent from the traditional classroom, except for maybe the commuting, parking and study sessions in the college library. If you have ever considered going back to college, and wonder if you could fit in, Loyola Chicago might be for you! It has been such a positive experience that I am now serving on the Student Engagement Committee as a liaison between faculty and students.

Speaking of which, I am… Excited about// my upcoming trip to Chicago in a couple of weeks for the Alpha Sigma Nu Induction ceremony at the Lakeshore Campus in Chicago. How awesome that my roomie from Rome, also a Loyola student, has so graciously offered to be my roommate again! What an honor to be considered among  those committed to  the Jesuit mission and ideals of scholarship, loyalty and service.  What began with my own passion for learning and faith development has evolved into a yearning to share and awaken the faith in others. Through my experience at Loyola, I have gained both knowledge, and the tools to critically explore and embrace the faith, as well as, endless creative ways to engage and connect.  Ignited within is a faithfulness to continued collaboration and spiritual formation and a life of service.

Today, may you too feel strengthened and encouraged, on this feast of St. Michael , to learn, grow and boldly serve in your own community  knowing God is with you.   Signature

[1] http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1153

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Currently Vol 3: A New Perspective

Currently,A New Perspective
with “A Mama Collective”!

Currently, I have been thinking about the people that enter into our lives, albeit sometimes unexpectedly,  who enable us to glimpse a new perspective.  We are reminded that the beauty of our journey as Christians  is that as questions arise, our faith tradition is filled with deep convictions, “emerging” methods,  and new beginnings!  How thankful I am for those times that as God has sought to move me, and has opened my eyes to see  a different perspective or the need for a more pastoral approach. What a vision God has of the whole picture!

It reminds me of an art class where everyone is painting the object in the center. The object isn’t the same all the way around, even the light from the windows casts the colors and shadows differently. Yet, the artists paint what is before them in the truest way possible, faithful to the teacher, and the methods that they have learned.

Listening// This week I listened to an elderly friend, who I bring communion to, describe the sightless, hard of hearing world that he lives in. Not in a complaint, but in a matter of fact way-inviting me into “seeing” his perspective.  Though the light behind his eyes has made sleep extremely difficult, he asks to be awakened for communion because this is so essential to him. As we part, he tells my husband and I how he wishes he could see us but how much he loves and is thankful for our time spent in community.

Watching// with excitement at the new appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago!  Just a few days before the announcement, twitter was all abuzz. Eagerly, I studied his pastoral journey to gain a better understanding of the perspective he would bring to the position.  He appears to be moderate in his approach on most religious issues, and in touch with both the teachings and the people.  How heartwarming it was to hear him personally address the 44% Hispanic population of Chicago in Spanish!  In everything that I have seen and heard so far,  I have to say what an exciting time  it is for the people of  Chicago. 

Reading// Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization by Scott Hahn.  Another essential book I have placed on my learning syllabus for my Field Education work! This book  provides a necessary perspective on the mission calling us forth in “creating intentional disciples” and in deepening our own faith life. For it questions whether we can be convincing witnesses of the faith if, instead of embracing and living our faith, we tread only in the shallow end. It is a beautiful reminder to probe the deeper meaning of the sacraments in a life lived, rather than seeing these as an end in and of themselves.

bookRemembering// The love of learning that my mother and her family passed down to me.  As the daughter, granddaughter, niece, and cousin of educators, I recognize that this is something I could not escape (Those genes are strong) even if I had wanted to!  Not knowing where God will lead me when this degree is completed, I know that in my heart that this desire to learn, grow and share will always be a part of whatever I do.

Wisdom” , Rustic Verses by (my Grandpa) Carl Wyatt Ferrell

 It seems the older that we grow,

The more we don’t know-

At least I’ve found it true.

My wisdom I begin to doubt,

For there are things I’ve just found out,

That once I thought I knew.

 

For Knowledge is a growing thing;

Each day, more wisdom it will bring

if we take care to see.

A grain of learning should each day,

Like precious gold be stored away,

If we would wiser be.

A loving granddaughter,Signature

A Spirit Led Day in Rome!

A year ago July, as a graduate student with Loyola Chicago, I was in Rome. Given a free day to (pardon the pun) roam around, I hadn’t made any definitive plans. A couple of friends had invited me to take two early morning trains out to Castel Gandolfo on the uncertainty that Pope Francis was to appear there that day. Alas, he was there..I was not. Sunburned and needing more sleep, I decided to climb back into bed forgoing this graced opportunity.

Yet the Spirit, as it so often is known to do, would not disappoint! Heading down to breakfast, I was greeted with my cocoa toasted cappuccino and my other friends who had yet to finalize their day.  After expressing my interest to see the Divine Mercy Shrine at The Church of Santo Spirito, we all agreed that would be a good starting place! Upon arrival, we were greeted by… wedding guests and the beautiful tones of Ave Maria as the bride walked down the aisle. This would be one of four weddings we were to glimpse that day!

 

From there to San Teodoro and into one of the most beloved bakeries in Rome, Cristalli di Zucchero.

To an incredible farmer’s market

then a few minutes of Adoration at the Church of San Teodoro al Palentino. Earlier at the bakery, we had spoken with a Religious Art

Expectant Mary awaiting the birth of Christ

student from Paris who had told us of a beautiful fresco of Mary in Santo Sabina’s. This was coincidentally was up Aventine Hill, where my friend MaryEllen had wanted to go. Considered one of the most spectacular views of Rome, it left us all breathless.

Aventine Hill

In each of the churches atop this hill was a wedding, each unique, open and inviting. 

Trevi Fountain

With the day not over, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain to toss our coins in with a promise to return again. Tired but happy, hungry but filled, we went in search of a bite to eat and rest for our feet. As we all offered our shared amazement at  how everything seemed to flow, despite being unplanned, God’s last gift unfolded.

 

One day, I had mentioned to Goshia how I wanted to see the  church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but was unsure if it would happen with so much to see. As we sat, and looking up from our outdoor dinner conversation she nudged me. “Elizabeth, look there it is, the IHM church!” Right in front of my eyes. God never ceases to surprise. As  we entered, one of us remarked, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make mass here!?” So there we were, praying silently as the rosary was being said , in the very spot where St.  Maximillian Kolbe had said his 1st mass. When, in a flurry of robes, candles, and music  mass began and the church was filled with parishioners. We all turned to look at one another as if to say, Can you believe this? While spoken all in Italian, I felt right at home, part of a family so much bigger than my own.

Belonging to a tradition with a beautiful history long before me, I am also part of a pilgrim people that is to carry the light of faith on..led by the unsurpassed guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Signature

 

(Not so) Small Success Thursday: A Catholic Mom’s prayers for her Teenage Son

Today, as we remember the tragedy of 9/11, I am blessed to also Small-Success-Thursday-250pxcelebrate the 15th birthday of my son Peter.

IMG_0703That day as he was turning two, I was out making necessary birthday preparations when the Twin Towers went down. This event that has so defined the spirit of our nation in both sorrow and solidarity is an indelible part of his birthday as well. Yet, rather than disregarding or muting the sentiments of the day, perhaps there is much grace for him in being reminded of the world outside of himself. In recognizing that in life we often hold sorrow in one hand and joy in the other, and that each one is essential in awareness of our blessings and the presence of God. So with this I opened his baby book and found the prayers that my husband and I had written to him before he was born.

1.  From Dad: IMG_0294

 

“My prayer for you is to be a good Catholic, and patriotic American. To live a life of honor, as you seek to follow Christ.”

 

IMG_04602.  From Mom:

My prayer is that your life will be filled with happiness and laughter-surrounded by true friends and family. That you will be able to see the good in all things, to be the one to change and work for change when needed.”

IMG_06353. As a Freshman this year, Peter passionately and persistently pleaded with us to attend Sacred Heart High School.  Not knowing how we would ever afford tuition with my husband being the only one working and with me in graduate school, we were hesitant. Yet, this is what changed our minds.. (Excerpt from his admissions essay.)

“Yet, if I had to had to identify what is most essential to me it would be my faith in God, and who I am because of that. I pray to God every day, and ask Him for forgiveness when I make mistakes. Likewise, I have chosen to serve as an altar server at my parish of St. Peter’s, since 3rd grade to give back to God who has given so much to me. This is also why I find using the Lord’s name in vain disrespectful, rude and offensive. God is of number one importance to me, and those who disrespect Him, I believe, also disrespect me. I would like to attend Sacred Heart because I want to be in a community of people who appreciate and love Him as much as I do.”

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So, while Peter is a still a typical teenager, and going to make his own mistakes in life, I am comforted in knowing that he is aware that God is there too. That the choices that he makes do not affect him alone, but influence and shape the world around him. Thank you Father, for the gift of our children, and for this day to celebrate and hold the sacredness of the gift of life in our hearts. For this day when this mom can throw her arms around her son who is now far taller than she is!

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Currently, Vol. 2: Just another Duck on the Water!

Currently, I have been giving a lot of thought to our perceptions of one another. You know those, more often than not, erroneous conceptions that someone we know has it all together. That pedestal was never meant to be, and distances us from the intimacy of real friendship. It also leaves us in a state of always wanting that perceived perfection rather than seeking to examine and appreciating the good in our own lives. So, with that, let me introduce myself as…just another duck on the water.

IMG_0668 To borrow one of my favorite lines from the movie The Replacements,  “Like a duck on the pond. On the surface everything looks calm, but beneath the water those little feet are churning a mile a minute”.

Staying afloat isn’t a result of its feet paddling, though, for that just propels the duck along. Its body itself, in shape and buoyancy, is a gift from God that as intended helps it achieve that course so easily. Yet, without the time spent preparing its feathers, moving oil from tail to front, it wouldn’t be the watertight vessel you see before you. This preparation is needed for us as well not only to weather the waves, but merely to stay afloat. What is it that helps you to remain atop the water line, and to have that sense of peace in gazing upon the horizon before you? For me, quite simply it is time spent with Christ- in prayer, in Word, in song and with others in communion. That’s it, that is my oil on my feathers.

IMG_0671Watching:  Yesterday, just studying on the waves and the tide rolling in, I was overwhelmed by the greatness of our God. IMG_0688Turning to see my husband and boys throwing a football to one another, I was given a glimpse of  that same greatness in the small joys of the moment.  So too, as the small little bank of sand that we were on suddenly began to disappear, we were reminded of God’s perfect timing!

Yum!!

Drinking: The new Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte, and yes, there is such a heavenly creation here on earth! Fall is here, and so are the Pumpkin Lattes..I did say I love coffee right? While, as a mom I am a pro at cutting corners and finding sales, this is such a treat for me. Not to mention, when combined with a great conversation with a friend, it is truly priceless.

Listening: not to the voices of discouragement, anxiety, fear or gossip. Instead, I am seeking to hear my father’s voice that leads, strengthens, comforts, and enlightens me. There’s a children’s book, by Max Lucado, entitled “You are Special” that comes to mind that speaks to this very subject. When we sit before our Creator, and Father we are told how perfectly made we are. It is then, that we begin to see how little the opinions of the world, be they good or bad, really matter.

At the movies: “When the Game Stands Tall”, is the story of the high school De La Salle Spartan football team who struggle to find out who they really are when the winning streak they had enjoyed suddenly stops. Coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel, experiences a heart attack, which for a time sidelines him. He is then reminded how important the connection with his family is too. In the midst of their angst they finally learn that winning isn’t as essential as effort, and the bond that they have with one other. Putting the notion of self below that of team, and God above everything is not an easy concept for most young athletes planning for college scouts and potentially the pros. Add in the opinions of family, neighbors, and media, and the pressure is seemingly insurmountable. As a woman who loves football, and her faith –this movie handled both splendidly! How awesome is it to catch yourself saying the “Our Father” along with a movie?!

Join in the conversation- I would love to hear what is Currently going on in your life!
Peace,Signature

Can you Spare Any Change?.. 7 Quick Takes!

IMG_3553With the start of fall, new calendars and schedules, and soon-to be clocks, it is no wonder that my mind quite naturally gravitates to the notion of change. Yet, so often we view change as something to be resisted, avoided, and fought. What if, however we flipped our understanding of change as something to embrace, to advocate and necessary for growth and peace?

 

  1. “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

    Today, as the feast day of Mother Teresa, we remember a woman who not only lived this upturned notion of change but inspired countless others to do the same. In her desire to follow Christ, she was a light of love for the unloved and unwanted, a living witness to the embodiment of change in every life she touched.

  2. Change is to be anticipated. My own awareness to the inevitability of change began early on, as the daughter of a single mom who seeking to acquire a better teaching position hoped also to provide a better life. With each move, came a new school, new church, surroundings and thankfully new friends too. My mom had a knack, which she passed on to me, of discovering the treasure that each relocation offered. On the weekends, we would venture out exploring museums, historical sites, little shops and the new “little pond” we found ourselves in. One of my 

    favorite memories was to wake up and simply pack a picnic tote, throw on a swimsuit and head on down to the Mississippi River with a fishing pole in hand. Did you catch anything, you might ask? Rarely, was it ever fish. Instead our eyes caught a glimpse of the horizon, an embrace of a beautiful day, the gift of time well spent, and an acceptance of the chance of rain tomorrow.

  3. Resistance.

    My own children who have not had the same exposure to change, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAare quick at times to resist even the slightest alteration of their expectation. This resistance was none more evident than in my then 5 year old son’s response to the removal of the shrub that was growing up, around, and through our back deck. Though it was pushing up the boards and causing significant structural damage, it had been there as long as he had known. Compelling his outcry, “But you can’t. I loved that tree!…I can’t imagine me without it!

  4. file3511268163576Some resistance is necessary.

    This brings me to the recognition that resistance is preemptive to change. In order to move ahead, we have to give up the comfortable, customary, and conditioned environment that we have become accustomed to. If we seek to remain where we are, despite the ground moving and shifting under our feet we can no longer grow as Our Father intended. There is a fruitlessness then of pouring new wine into old wineskins, for our minds and hearts cannot accept the new good that God has planned if we are content with the old wine. (Lk 5:33-39) Transformation is necessary and this isn’t a onetime deal but a continual openness to the Holy Spirit.

  5. Change with Community

    For those unaware, there are incredible and much needed changes taking place through a collaboration of parishes within the Archdiocese of Boston. In an effort to streamline councils, fully utilize staff and resources, account for a growing shortage of parish priest, pastoral planning is in place to better “meet the needs of the people of God”. (http://www.disciplesinmission.com ) This path is not without challenges and the greatest of these is in accepting that change is necessary and that a new more vibrant community is possible. In letting go of our fears, we are able to foster new relationships, focus our resources on the mission of evangelization before us, and to realize the unity of our Catholic faith as the body of Christ in the world.

  6. file000871375277Embracing change is moving forward from a mindset of consenting to it as a plan B, to conceiving it as your plan A. What was it that Robert Burns so poetically phrased? “The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy!” Where our plans fail, there is such joy in trusting God, the author of change to create our day, to fill it with surprise and yes, change. If asked if you thought you would be where you are today, how many of us could have envisaged the present?
  7. Oh my soul- how I bless you Lord! We ask ourselves “How file0001303010317can we spare change, and you answer how can we not? You have such amazing promises in store for each of us! Though we may experience “growing pains” through challenges , you know that this is the path for true transformation and peace. Holy Spirit, come and help open our hearts to be receptive to change, Father, please take our lives and let us to be the change you wish to see in the world!

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Music That Moves the Soul

Music (2) Music, it is said, “stirs the deepest strings of our heart and causes them to resound”. [1]        It gives ‘wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.[2]

An essential part of a fulfilling community worship experience, its importance cannot be understated. Whether raised in praise, thanksgiving or lamentation, the ability of song to stir our soul and buoy our spirit is ageless and eternal.

In spiritual life formation and liturgy, music can be a tool not simply to engage the listener but to move an entire community to participation through “beauty expressive of prayer”, while preserving the “solemn character of the celebration”. [3] This tension is important to consider because not all songs are appropriate to the occasion or the solemnity of the moment no matter how beautiful or inspiring.

One age group or ministry that is making significant strides with in Youth Ministrydoing this well is the area of youth ministry. Incorporating visuals with songs, and quite often using live music, youth ministry is recognizing the importance of music as a means for evangelization and enrichment. Given the array of contemporary Christian artists, quite a few of them even specifically Catholic; there is no shortage of music styles, or diversity of gifts. While it might surprise you, in Christian music today there is not only room for outstanding gospel and praise artists, but blues, pop, metal, and rap as well.

So much more than just the confession of our sins… reconciliation is the reparation and renewal of the relationship between the believer, God, and the community of the faithful.

Having said this, I would love your help with my latest project! Within the format of the retreat setting, and sacramental preparation, I am interested in amassing an ongoing list of artists and songs to deeper engage the whole believer to participation. Then, with these songs, parishes could use them in coordination with guided sacramental programs and retreats, even garnering the assistance of local musicians if possible.

Top 15

The following are an initial top 15 for Reconciliation, in no particular order, with some more obviously applying to different age groups. Please comment, or inbox me through FB or Twitter if you have suggestions for this list.

  1. Lord, I need You-Matt Maher

  2. Breaking You- Audrey Assad
  3. Forgiveness-Matthew West
  4. Come to Me-Jamie Grace

  5. Redeemed-Big Daddy Weave
  6. Turn Around-Matt Maher
  7. Infinite Grace-Sarah Hart
  8. Be Forgiven- Jackie François-Angel
  9. Empty and Beautiful-Matt Maher 

  10. In the Silence-Sarah Kroger
  11. Suitcases-Dara McClean
  12. Find You on My Knees-Kari Jobe
  13. Your love is like a River-Third Day
  14. Like a Bridge over Troubled Water-Audrey Assad 

  15. I Need You Now-Plumb

In God’s love Always,Signature

 


[1] Rudolph Steiner

[2] Plato

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1157

[4] http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments/penance/sacrament-of-penance-question-and-answer.cfm