The Grace We Need

If she could stand, she would undoubtedly comprise all of 5 feet. Slowly, age and physical limitations have taken her ability to walk, then stand and the wheelchair that she once could move can no longer be done on her own. Yet on the inside “Grace” towers, a living witness to a profound spirituality, her inspiring reverence and appreciation for the Eucharist is faithfully compelling.  In her suffering, she has shared not only of her struggle but of the gift and essentialness of communion and community.

It was about 6 years ago in the beginning of our Eucharistic Ministry to the nursing homes, that my husband and I first met Grace. My husband, having left Harvard when our economy took a major downturn was initially unsure of this assignment but more than ready to feel of use again. While he was certain that he could impart a bit of company and joy to those he visited in fulfilling this ministry, he was not prepared for what he would receive in return. His week spent researching the classifieds and applying for new jobs, would prove relentless with the exception of Sunday. Always faithful, but at times lukewarm in intensity, Sunday was the day he reserved for God. Little did he know that God had so much more in store for him, by this simple step forward in faith.

While wanting to go with him in these first few visits, I prayerfully held back, feeling God was preparing John for something special. So, with pyx in hand and a head full of concerns I watched as John hurriedly left the house, unquestionably working on the following day’s to-do list. However, no matter how he left the house, one could not help but notice that he never returned the same. In its place, peace and joy had consumed his countenance and he practically overflowed with a renewed strength. For, during this otherwise incredibly stressful time, God had opened a window.

After a bit of time, of observing all of this, the day came when with hopeful expectation he suddenly  asked,  “Would you like to go with me today? There is someone I would like you to meet.”   This was the moment I had patiently waited for.  “Of course, lead the way!”.  Though he carried a handwritten list of names and rooms, with notes beside each, it would be completely unnecessary. He knew each one, and wasted no time in introducing me as we entered with a rap at the door.

As we neared the last room he paused, grabbed my hand and a huge smile overtook his face. This was the one he so eagerly had wanted to share, the one that had inspired the transformation that I witnessed.

“Hi Grace!”, it’s John from St. Peter’s, “I brought my lovely wife Elizabeth with me today..”
“It is really SO good to see you, thank you for coming and making time for me..I cannot tell you what this means”, she exclaimed.
Then chatting for a few min about our families, health and week, John asked Grace, would you like to receive communion?”
“Oh, Yes! I REALLY need that!” , with hands clasped and eyes closing immediately in prayer.
“We all do Grace, we all do..” he answered without hesitation.

Have you ever considered Eucharistic ministry? Be prepared, the life transformed by Christ today, might just be your own!

An Engaging Faith: 8/31-9/6

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of Pray with Me  by Grace Urbanski (Ave Maria Publishing)  or A Catechist’s Backpack by Joe Paprocki (Loyola Press)

Drawing runs 8/30-9/6 Click to enter..Back To School4

Get prepared for Back to school with all the right tools prayer, leadership,and a deepening spirituality  …

With Grace Urbanski of Pray with Me, Chris Lowney of Heroic Leadership and Pope Francis:Why He Leads The Way He LeadsJoe Paprocki with A Catechist’s Backpackand Margaret Felice, with “Felice Fridays”, our Catholic round table discussion.

And an Encore of  Barb Gilman as she chats about integrating technology and creativity in the classroom. 

Monday: Grace Urbanski  is director of Children’s Ministry for the Apostleship of Prayer in the United States. She is a blogger at Praying with Grace and contributor to CatholicMom.com and its Gospel Reflection Team, Catholic Bloggers Network, Catholic 365, and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. A graduate of Marquette University, Grace serves as a keynote speaker and workshop designer for marriage-preparation and married-couple events for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and frequently speaks to parents, teachers, and children throughout the United States in her role with the Apostleship of Prayer. 
 

 

 

Tuesday: Barb Gilman
, Catholic School Teacher, 2014 NCEA Distinguished Teacher- Plains States, co-organizer of #CatholicEdChat Saturday 8am CT – Co-founder of EdCampArchOmaha and blogger at Barb In Nebraska.com

 

 

 

Wednesday: Chris Lowney  a former Jesuit, served as Managing Director at J.P. Morgan in New York, Tokyo, Singapore, and London for seventeen years. Lowney has been featured in Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, and FastCompany.com and currently lives in New York where he is a consultant for the Catholic Medical Mission Board. A popular speaker on issues around leadership, he is the author of the best-selling Heroic Leadership, Heroic Living, and Pope Francis: Why He leads the Way He Leads.

 

Thursday: Joe Paprocki,  is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press. He has his doctorate and more than 30 years of experience in ministry having taught at many different levels. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling The Catechist’s Toolbox Series, Practice Makes Catholic and A Well-Built Faith and the host of A Catechists Journey.

 

 
 

Felice Fridays!: Margaret FeliceBoston College alumnae and faculty member of Religion and Performing Arts at BC High in Boston MA, Opera Singer and blogger joins us for a fun an engaging talk about all things Catholic

Worth Revisiting: Just Another Duck on the Water

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

I’ve heard it said not to envy one another’s gifts, because in doing so we fail to honor God’s will and purpose in the gifts specifically chosen for us. We spend so much time admiring the way another “swims” , the colors of their feathers, or ability to support themselves that we neglect to see the plan that God has for us.What are your gifts? Are you prepared to receive them?


Currently, 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_0668To 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.

Watching:  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

Down to Earth

What is it about having hands in the warm earth that speaks so sincerely to my soul? For as long as I can remember, I have cherished this invitation to connect with the Creator and his creation. To till the soil, plant, and cultivate from its humble beginnings to harvest, that is the essence of a season in time.   Watching the grass grow, enamored by the sudden appearance of each bud, blossom and fruit I wonder the delight that God must have too in each of these small miracles. Yet not only an observer, we are participators and co-creators in caring for this life that has been entrusted to us.  What a blessed and wondrous responsibility!

Fond memories, carried in the pretty straw baskets overflowing with strawberries, tomatoes, and tall stalks of rhubarb, are childhood treasures. With dirt covered knees and hands leaning over rows of neatly sowed seeds, I would take great care to follow Grandma’s instructions.

 “Pull the weeds, as they seek to steal the nutrients from the plants. But be careful- those that have grown too close to the roots can cause great damage if pulled without caution.”

I am reminded of her words of wisdom each time in hearing the parable of the sower. What of those weeds in our own life, those things that we too have allowed close, which consume our every thought, time and energy? Can we even readily identify them as weeds? They are innocuous looking enough at first, blending in with the other sprouts in our lives. Until that is they can no longer be overlooked, and we struggle for a way to remove the weed without further damage to our own lives.

Yet, is the tender plant without help, left alone without the loving care of its steward? No, not at all. Though our troubles, fears and passions might seek to entrap and tear us down, they are no match for the strength that is offered through prayer. Helping to loosen the grip of what we have become entangled with, conversation with our Father nourishes us from the inside. It is then that the opinions of others, the lifestyles we have become accustomed to and the attractiveness of our sinful companion begins to matter less and less. Like a humble obliging earthworm, aerating the soil of our lives, our time spent with God creates much needed space in the compacted hardened ground around us.  We find the air to breathe again, and companionship with our true friend in Christ.

As I kneel, looking up towards the sky with eyes closed I cannot help but pause to offer up my modest and imperfect praise for the one who created it all. He who knows the weeds in our hearts, that we have allowed to grow, loves us nonetheless. More than our faults, our potential lies in wait for our response to God’s love. The question lies in just what our response to God will be.

Do you have a problem or a passion that is controlling your life today? Take a moment or two or three to talk to God..you might just find the fresh air you need in your life to let go of the weed.

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith : August 24-28th

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Real Life Radio daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of Seeking Surrender  by Colette Lafia (Courtesy Of Ave Maria Publishing)  Drawing runs 8/24-8/31 Click to enter..

Looking at Writing, Friendships and Spiritual Journeys …

With Colette Lafia of Seeking Surrender , Melanie Jean-Juneau of Joy of nineVirginia Lieto with Finding Patienceand Tony Agnesi, who is Finding God’s Grace in Everyday Life ,  

And an Encore of Love and Salt:A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters by Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith

Monday: Colette Lafia, is a San Francisco–based blogger, spiritual director, workshop and retreat facilitator, and part-time school librarian. She is an adjunct faculty member at Mercy Center Burlingame, where she also earned two certificates in spiritual direction. Lafia has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and English from San Francisco State University and a master of library information science from San Jose State University. She is the author of Comfort and Joy: Simple Ways to Care for Ourselves and Others and Seeking Surrender   

Tuesday: Melanie Jean-Juneau is a mother of nine children who blogs at Joy of nine9. Her writing is humorous and heart-warming; thoughtful and thought-provoking. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life. Melanie is the administrator of ACWB, a columnist at CatholicLane, CatholicStand, Catholic365 , CAPC & author of Echoes of the Divine.

Wednesday: Virginia Lieto, In 2011, Virginia decided to leave Corporate America and made a commitment to give her life to God. With that commitment, and her faith, she obtained a Master of Arts Degree in Pastoral Theology from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Upon graduation, Virginia became an adjunct professor at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. In addition to teaching, Virginia is engaged in public speaking, as well as blogging about the Catholic faith. Virginia is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as the Catholic Writer’s Guild. Virginia is also the author of a new book entitled Finding Patience, which is to be part of a series geared for children ages 3-8. 

Thursday: Tony Agnesi, who is Finding God’s Grace in Everyday Life is the Senior Vice President of Rubber City Radio Group, WQMX, WONE, and WAKR in Akron and WNWV in Cleveland and member of Radio and Television Hall of Fame. A relentless storyteller, his Sunday blog and Wednesday podcast have an International audience in over 70 counties and has been translated in over 40 languages. Tony and his wife Diane have two adult sons and are members of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Wadsworth, Ohio.


Friday: Encore
Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith, authors of  Love and Salt:A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters, join Elizabeth for today’s show. Amy has an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and her spiritual writing has appeared in Creative Nonfiction,River Teeth, and the Bellingham Review. She teaches mathematics at Northwestern University and lives in Evanston with her husband and two children.Jessica has an MFA in writing from the University of Pittsburgh and has published essays in Elle, Creative Nonfiction, and Godspy. She lives in Michigan with her husband, writer David Griffith, and their  two children.

Worth Revisiting: A Portrait of Suicide & Glimpses of Grace

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

Reflecting on my brother’s life and death this poignant story, one of suicide survival and reception of grace is mine, but not mine alone. For those who have experienced this great pain, left reeling from the consequences of the sudden loss of their loved one, we pray for peace and healing.Yet, beautifully as our faith holds “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance”.


IMG_0588My Brother:A Portrait of Suicide & Glimpses of Grace

Yesterday’s news on the untimely death of Robin Williams hit many of us hard.  Here was a man that we thought we knew well, at least we knew all of the characters that he played, and the many talents he possessed.  He was quick witted, funny, gifted, and seen quite habitually smiling. Yet, depression is an illness that is so often hidden, that is until it can no longer be. Suicide, then becomes a final expression of a state of no longer wanting to hide, no longer wanting to hurt, and no longer wanting to be. So too, was the story of my brother Paxton, his name meaning “peace”,  and his life cut short at the all-to-soon age of 40.

IMG_0589
My brother Paxton

Smart, funny, loving, a practical joker, an incredible hugger, Pax would do anything to help someone he loved. At 14 years older (yes I was the “surprise” child), he was in many ways a father figure to me. He taught me how to float on Lake Norfork, to play penny ante blackjack, to work hard and how to laugh at myself when I took the demands of life too seriously. Listening attentively when I would ask for his advice, he would smile and ask me what I thought I should do. This was to be one of my first lessons in pastoral ministry. He was present with me.

IMG_0590
Years later, summer of my Freshman year in college

In wake of his death, this is what I felt the most, an overwhelming sudden absence and a longing for him to be present with me again. Mixed in also was a whole list of regrets, things I wish I would have said in that unknown last conversation that night, and times I wondered if I had appreciated fully. Questions as to why he didn’t know how much he was truly loved, or the extent of the devastation his death left us all feeling. Yet, what I discovered was that God was there too, breaking into my sorrow with glimpses of grace, mercy, and unconditional love.

At this time, in the rural South, suicide was a topic of non-discussion and I knew of no one personally who had experienced what our family had or was willing to talk about it. Those that did choose to comment, oh how I wish sometimes that they hadn’t. One of the most hurtful things spoken was that “suicide is an unforgivable sin, I’m truly sorry that your brother is going to hell”. Yes, that was said, and all in the pretense of being a person of faith.  Those words rung in my ears, and I could not reconcile them with the all loving God that I knew so well. Reeling from the sting, and recognizing others I knew shared this understanding,  I reached out to my pastor in Massachusetts, and in doing so God reached out to me.

            “Elizabeth, tell me, how are you doing?” was the kind Irish voice on the other end of the line. As I began to relate the events of Paxton’s death, I stopped, there was a point I couldn’t go any further…

“Father, tell me why would someone say this to me? Tell me, please is this really what our church teaches, and our faith holds, is there really no room for God’s loving forgiveness?”

As tears flowed and my heart pounded, I heard these words. “God loves Paxton. Only our loving Father knows the heart and the moments of death which allow for great grace of reconciliation.”  Hearing his words were grace for me as well, for while I knew of the state that depression and alcoholism had created, I also knew of Paxton’s quiet love of the Father and Son as a baptized Christian. Then God gave me another gift- a conversation shared by an elderly neighbor of his in the month before his passing. That evening she had walked out of her apartment to see him sitting and looking at the stars, and seeing him so happy she couldn’t resist joining him. Gazing upwards he said, “All those countless stars..He made them all..one day I will be a part of that, and with Him too.” She said that while the conversation surprised her it was the happiest that she had seen him in quite awhile. This chance meeting with her was yet another grace.

Over the course of the next few years, I slowly discovered that in speaking of my loss, of the painful rupture that suicide creates in the lives of those who they leave behind I had found the grace that only God can provide. Not alone, I had found peace in the listening support of family, friends, my faith community, and in the voices of those who too had lost a loved one to suicide. I also recognized that throughout this God was strengthening me, step by step, day by day to be of help to others- to be present- in their sorrow and their joy. This is today how I remember my brother,  best honor his life and continually glimpse God’s grace in the gift of ministry.

In God’s Peace and Love,

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If you are considering suicide, or know of someone who is please take the time to speak to someone who knows where you are and can cast a lifeline of hope: National Suicide Prevention 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

For those directly or indirectly affected by the painful loss of suicide, this is what our Catholic tradition actually says in this matter[1]:

That, we are to be responsible stewards of the gift of life given to us, it is not for our disposal. (2280) Further, it is detrimental in cutting the connections to family, friends, and community, and therefore in opposition to our expression of our love of God. (2281) However, there are several conditions in which one’s degree of responsibility is considered affected. (2282) Finally, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance”. (2283)


[1]Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pt. 3, Sect. 2, Ch.2, art.5 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

All Roads Lead To Rome: Abby Tre Fontane

Home to three churches, Abby Tre Fontane is a beautiful spot right outside the walls of Rome and is located on the route of the Via Laurentina. Amidst  groves of eucalyptus trees, and tucked away in a time reminiscent of the Middle Ages, is this sacred place of pilgrimage and contemplation. What’s the significance of this place among all the many others in Rome, you ask? Here, in 67 AD, is where tradition holds St. Paul to have been tortured and beheaded and where three fountains sprang forth from the bounce of his head upon the ground. The first spring brought forth hot water, the second warm and the third cold, and in place today, the pilgrim will see three shrines.

A citizen of Rome, Paul was to not be crucified or executed within the walls of Rome, but taken here to await his sentence of death.  Solace awaits the invitation to sit with St. Paul- to pray and consider his time spent here. Love, strength of conviction,and faith- when times are their darkest permeate the entirety of this space. So too is the poignant reminder that the fire lit with St. Paul  did not end there, but is within each of us as followers of Christ today. In this moment, I thought of my own husband, his kinship with St. Paul and how his small constant flame of faith was suddenly set ablaze when he heard God calling him deeper in faith.

Walking back up the path, towards the Church S. Maria Scala Coeli,  one cannot miss the statue of St Benedict calling all to listen and obedience without delay. “Pray and work. Here hastens those who want to see the heavens open; and the difficulty of the route not distracting from the holy plan. Always difficult things are achieved with great effort. The blessed life always passes through a narrow path”  This church constructed in the 12th century derives its name from a vision of a ladder that ascended to heaven from purgatory that St. Bernard of Clairvaux had in 1138 while celebrating Mass.

Last, but certainly not least is the church of  Ss.Vincenzo and Anastasio built in 625 and rebuilt by the Cistercian monks between 1140 and 1221. Enclosed with these walls of brick and columns of marble is a church of alluring austerity.I sat here for some time, at first conversing with God. Feeling a need to fill the seeming simplicity of this space, I spoke at length till my thoughts racing about in my head had come to a standstill. Then like a wave, an overwhelming sense of serene solitude enveloped me and all I longed for was to remain. I was being shaped by the silence- stripped of all my pretenses and  burdens I carried and created anew.This is the joy of contemplation, and life in this Trappist monastery.    

Yet, prayer and reflection are but part of the life of those who feel called to live within these cloistered walls. As an active working community of faith, the Cistercian  monks produce many products of unsurpassed quality and taste. Olive Oil, honey, jelly, chocolate, beer , liquors, and natural skin care products are a few of the many items sold at the Abbey of the Three Fountains. If only my pockets and suitcases were deep enough, I would have supported the monastery for a year or more. Yet, I could not help but recognize that the gift of spiritual solitude I had found there, far outweighed anything that could ever be purchased.

Reflect: Ever think about the attractiveness of monastic life? If so why? If not, can you envision the essentialness of this quiet time of retreat in your own life? Action:Take time today, to sit and allow yourself to be worn and shaped by the sound of silence.

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith: August 17-21

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Real Life Radio daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win 1 of 3 books:

  A Book of Uncommon Prayer by Brian Doyle (Ave Maria Press) I’m Not Being Fed by Jeff Cavins (Ascension Press) , or Prayer and You: Wit and Wisdom from a Crabby Mystic  (Pauline Books & Media)

Incredible week with noted authors and speakers …

With Brian DoyleJason Evert , and Jeff Cavins.

As well as.. Fridays with Margaret Felice. 


Monday: 
Brian Doyle is an award-winning author of 14 books of essays, poems, stories, nonfiction and fiction, including “Mink River” and “The Plover.” His work has been featured in prominent national magazines and several anthologies. Doyle also is the editor of Portland, the University of Portland magazine that Newsweek has called “the best university magazine in America.” Doyle has been featured in Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion, the American Scholar, the Sun, Georgia Review, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including the New York Times, the Times of London, and the Age in Australia. He is a recipient of the Christopher Medal, a Catholic Book Award, the University of Notre Dame’s Griffin Award in literature, three Pushcart Prizes, the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays, the Foreword Reviews Novel of the Year award, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

Tuesday: Jason Evert and and his wife Crystalina Evert have spoken on six continents to more than one million people about the virtue of chastity. They are the best selling authors of a dozen books, including Theology of His/Her BodyHow to Find Your Soulmate without Loosing Your Soul  and Theology of the Body for Teens. Jason earned a master’s degree in Theology, and undergraduate degrees in Counseling and Theology, with a minor in Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is a frequent guest on radio programs throughout the country, and his television appearances include Fox News, MSNBC, the BBC, and EWTN.

Wednesday: Jeff Cavins  is the director of evangelization and catechesis for the Archdiocese of St. Paul–Minneapolis. Jeff has been a leading figure in Catholic media for more than two decades. He hosted EWTN’s Life on the Rock for six years, and he also hosted Relevant Radio’s Morning Air show. He received his master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Not only a very engaging speaker, Jeff has authored quite a number of books, including I’m Not Being Fed and several Bible Study Programs the latest of which is Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible.

Thursday: Sr. Lea Hill from the Daughters of St. Paul has been sharing her dry wit and wisdom with the Daughters of St. Paul since 1964. An experienced writer and editor, Sr. Lea has written Prayer and You: Wit and Wisdom from a Crabby Mystic  as well as the introduction to the anniversary edition of Imitation of Christ. As director of audiovisual productions and animations of Pauline Books and Media in the early years, Sr. Lea now uses these skills through her blog Crabby Mystic and in the world of social media.


Felice Fridays!: Margaret Felice
Boston College alumnae and faculty member of Religion and Performing Arts at BC High in Boston MA, Opera Singer and blogger joins us for a fun an engaging talk about all things Catholic

Worth Revisiting: Assuming Mary

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

With the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on Saturday, I thought that this might be an apt post to revisit. For those that have grown up in the Catholic faith, this feast is well known perhaps at times a bit too familiar. Do we stop and take the time to truly ponder the life of Mary as we celebrate this honor bestowed on a life well lived? Or do we simply take for granted her yes and assume we know of her without anything further?


Assuming Mary

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother,“Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” John 19:26-27 NAB

Like all good movies, there will most definitely be a prequel and subsequent sequels to this conversational confession of my conversion to Catholicism. Yet, with the Church’s celebration of Mary’s Assumption today, I could not bear to let this day pass without sharing my own journey of rediscovery of Mary. Not having grown up in the Catholic faith, I knew of Mary, but did not truly know her. For, while well acquainted with biblical stories, I still never fully reflected on God’s choosing, her response, or her role in the life of the Church. Beginning with an initial inquisitiveness, this path has led me through faith, scripture and onto a pursuit of heart and mind to understand who Mary is and truly wants to be, in my life today.

My confirmation day in the faith was the equivalent of suddenly finding out that you have family- all over the world, spanning centuries of belief , that are joining in on the celebration. That not only are you part this timeless, vast community, but they are to be a part of you as well, and in the struggles, hopes and joys that are to be encountered.  This is such an incredible immeasurable gift that quite honestly I feel I have been unwrapping it ever since that day! So too has been the journey of getting to know our mother Mary. No longer is she resting still in the shadows of the nativity scene, just one of the many characters of a beloved story but an indelible part of my own story as a woman of faith.mary&babyJesus

Paramount to this animation of faith, is that in considering her as God’s chosen, I am compelled to also recognize Mary’s beautiful choice to add her “Yes” to God. In doing so, she modeled a faith so pure and trusting, expressive of her love of God and desire for service, that in this moment she became the very first disciple.  At the tender age of probably 14 or 15, she possessed an awareness of the situation before her, expressed deep acceptance and commitment, and spent a lifetime of learning and growing in faith and understanding. Isn’t this what we too desire in our own lives as Christian daughters, sisters, and mothers? Do we not want to be known by our love, dedicated lives of service with hands and feet that lead others to Jesus? Following Mary’s guidance, over the last few years, I began recommitting myself to God at the start of each new day. Before my eyes even open, and despite my inclination to stay in bed,

  I simply say “Thank you God for the gift of this new day”. Then quite deliberately before my feet hit the floor I say “Yes!”. To what you might ask? It is my yes to what God has in store for me, in the ability to accept the unknown as opportunities of grace and the choice to be a part of God’s loving plan in my life.

So too has it been in my life as a mom. With each of my three children, I have prayed, “Lord please grant me a healthy child that is loved, nurtured and is to flourish within. May I be worthy of this gift of life, and may you continue to guide me in guiding him or her in the light of your love”. (Lk. 1:39-56) For me, Mary has been a part of God’s promise to do just that- to become a constant guiding light for my children. Equally as true, she has comforted me when I have been at wits end, seeking more patience than that day had allowed. In keeping with this very thought, one of my favorite scriptures as a parent has been the finding of Jesus at the temple (Lk 2:41-52). Tangibly, I can sense the very real frustration, and “anxiety” of Mary and Joseph as they, having searched for 3 days, finally discover him teaching all present including themselves.  It is said that Mary, not fully understanding, took her Son’s words and “kept all this in her heart”.

Yes Lord, when I have failed to understand the why I too need to keep your words in my heart.

This is no more fully witnessed than at the foot of the cross. Oh, the profound sorrow that she as a mom felt at the loss of her Son, and the love poured out for a rejecting world! Yet, here too Mary was asked to meet this both with an open acceptance, and allow God to transform the pain into the hope of salvation. Even in Mary’s life, there is transformation, for in the simplicity of Jesus’ presentation of the gift of Mary to John we begin to grasp the importance of the larger family. We are never alone, but part of an immense communion of believers. Thank you God for the hopeful promise that we like Mary will enjoy an eternity with you one day. Until then,

“Father, please use my humble hands, feet, voice, and heart to serve you as you will.”

  In Christ Always,

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They Called Him “Buster”

Some years ago I met one of the few living witnesses, other than family, to the life and memory of my Grandpa Ferrell.  Standing at an impressive 6’6” he easily towered over everything and yet the warmth of his smile and joyous presence elevated all surrounding. Donning a nicely pressed dress shirt under a pair of overalls, his attire was to be truly befitting of his personality.  Brought up in a seemingly bygone age where there was both respect and appreciation for women, I had become his honored guest. And still, rather than displaced gestures of formality I was most graciously welcomed into his small room within the nursing care facility in which he lived.

I had not expected to be there that day, truly a tag along on vacation, I had no idea what God had lay in store.  Since my Aunt’s passing, my Uncle Bob had found comfort in the ministry of visitation to the sick, home bound and elderly. Having reached his own rock bottom of loneliness and grief without the love of his life he had sought better meaning and purpose for this idle time. These visits had become the bright spots in his week and one could not help but notice the great care he would take to be presentable and on time.

Having served in this ministry with my husband, I too knew the immeasurable joy that comes from the very small gift of time spent. So, when he announced that he was departing our Sunday family meal to go out on ministry, I could not remain either. The Holy Spirit was tugging on me, telling me that there was somewhere else I was meant to be.  “Wait up, can I join you?”, I called out. “Yes… you want to come? Well, we need to hurry; I hate to keep them waiting”.

Part of me felt like a kid again riding someplace fun with my Uncle Bob, a man who always made me laugh and had cared for me like a father.  However, this was uniquely different. For, I wasn’t a child but an adult and I was choosing to spend this time together in service for others not for myself. Something inside too was reminding me of the sacredness of this moment, and the fact that I might ever be given this shared opportunity again. How true this was.

Within minutes of arriving, nurses and guests alike had made their way to saying hello to us, who all were very familiar with his visits. Clearly there was an extra spring in both our steps as we walked those halls, and stepped inside the home of each resident.  Here, in the exchange of banter, stories and prayers, we were no longer considered as visitors but brothers and sisters in Christ.  When one remarked how good it was to see someone of my age want to come, I felt sadness for this missed blessing that others have not known.

Buster Keaton

So it is that we made our way to “Buster” Kennedy’s room. To this day I am still not sure why he was called Buster. Perhaps I have thought it was in reference to Buster Keaton, a vaudeville film actor and comedian from the early 20’s known for not shying away from dangerous stunts or the quick punch line. Whatever the reason, that was the only name on the door, and I was intrigued immediately.

As we stood there for a few seconds, with my Uncle Bob making introductions, I realized just how little I was in Buster’s shadow. And still, that soon all disappeared as he leaned in looking me in the eyes, adding what a pleasure it was to meet Carl Ferrell’s granddaughter. He knew me, I thought. Yes, I know I had never met him before, but in knowing my grandpa, in some sense he knew me. My grandpa, whose love of learning and knack for poetry and languages I inherited, had passed away when I was quite small. Oh, how I yearned to know more of my grandpa, who others saw him to be.

 

The Ferrells’  1950’s (My mom far left)

Buster Kennedy, a combat engineer in the Army during World War II, had served in the Philippines as a young man. When he returned to the states, Buster found work as a driver for the cotton gin my grandpa managed in his summers apart from teaching. As he described my grandpa, Buster spoke of the kindness and compassion shown by my grandpa, and the honor and respect he had earned by all those who worked for him. “He was so smart, but always took the time to explain things, the reasons why.”  As we talked, my heart soared and inwardly I hoped that I could be that friend to others that my grandpa was.  That’s when Buster stopped, and said what I had longed to hear, “Do you know how proud of you he must be?”  Filled with emotion, and holding back the tears, I managed a feeble “Thank you so much, I have always prayed he would be”.

Thank you Father, for those you place in our path that remind us who we are and whose we are. May we always seek to honor you with lives of love and compassion. Thank you God, for “Buster”.