Worth Revisiting: 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 be your own!

The Gift of Retreat

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Last weekend I experienced the gift of an Ignatian silent directed retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA . Just the thought of an unhurried, unscheduled day and release of self-imposed expectations was enough to fill my heart with joy. Teeming with insights and brimming with grace, my soul longed to soak up every moment and respond in gratitude.

Reciprocity

The word gift used here is a very full word as it implies not only what is received by the retreatant but what each person brings to the retreat as well.It is a reciprocal relationship, for truly you are only able to receive when you are willing to offer and surrender all.

Sucipe      ~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

When there is response and surrender, there is an openness and an emptying, brokenness and renewal, discernment and clarity.

Silence

“In nature we find silence – the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. ”
–Mother Teresa,  At Play in God’s Creation

A weekend in pure silence..my family playfully remarked might be difficult for someone, like myself, who loved a good conversation. Yet, as the days drew nearer to retreat I was almost giddy with anticipation of this alone time with my heavenly Father. Oh how we fill our days with “noise”, and clatter our prayer with the unnecessary that it’s a wonder we hear his voice at all sometimes! Silence is, for me, not nothingness, but an absence of the commotion and turbulence we are so accustomed to.

Thus, silence came to me like a wave of His hand, gently clearing away the seemingly immovable objects I had placed in my path. And with each difficulty surrendered to His care, I could once again discern the sound of His voice calling me home to where I belong. No longer a desire to fill the space, I breathed- taking in the fresh and all encompassing movement of the Holy Spirit. Complete and resting in the grace of His presence.

“Oh God, you are my God in and through it all. My heart is free to love you and I long for nothing more”

Encounter

This experience of God is one of encounter, of discovering anew who our Creator is but also who he intends each of us to be. And since we never travel alone in our journey of faith, it is an encounter of Christ in others. While exchanging  only prayerful glances, and smiles my soul did exactly this amidst complete silence. From the elderly Jesuit priests in respite, and those preparing and serving  our meals,  to those also with me on retreat- I encountered both Christ and community.

Even still, there was one whom God especially drew me to. One evening in prayer, I heard the prompting to not sleep yet, but to gather my rosary and the young woman next door and take a rosary walk. Without questioning and gently tapping on her door, I held up my rosary and moved my fingers on the other hand to signal a walk.  Met with the biggest smile, I heard her unspoken yes. Unknowingly, she had just been praying  for a prayer group. There we were joyfully moving the beads on our rosaries and lifting one another in prayer. Every step had purpose and together we embraced the grace of community. Having explored our surroundings previously, our steps quickened as we neared Our Lady in the small grotto. Looking at one another, we couldn’t hide the pure delight and recognition that this place was special to each of us.

– “Lord, I am so overcome by your generosity. You are the answer to our prayers.You call us beyond ourselves to witness your transforming love.You lead us to walk with one another, to share the journey and see your love magnified in the lives of others.”

Perhaps you find it difficult to go away on retreat right now. If so, try to carve instead some time in your day to consider and embrace these fruits of retreat found in reciprocity, silence and encounter.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Getting 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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Worth Revisiting: Gelatos & Cappuchino

Out of the blue my youngest resolutely proclaimed from the other room, “Mom when I get older I am going to Rome.”  Having grabbed my attention, I called back, “Well certainly you can, but why do you say that?”  “Well, mom if this is anything like the granite and gelato served in Rome..I’m there!” No surprise as I walked into the kitchen to spy him sitting and consuming a cup of lemon Italian ice. “Ah, Thomas but it is oh so much better in Rome!”

From the very first day of our arrival in Rome, my friends and I struck out on a pilgrimage of a different sort…to taste test as many different places and varieties of these frozen delicacies as possible during our stay.  It became almost an adventure, asking cabbies and locals for their own personal favorites and to discover new ones as well.  Our first find, within walking distance of our hotel, was to be our evening stop regardless of whether we had found another gelateria earlier that day.

Enjoying a Lemon Raspberry Granita

Using locally sourced ingredients,  natural fruits and fresh cream it is no wonder why these taste so remarkably  different from what we usually purchase under the title of gelato here in the States. Traditional flavors are there for the less daring and yet there are an abundance of unique flavor combinations. Of these distinctive flavor combinations my favorites were cinnamon-ginger, lemongrass-rosemary, and kiwi- mango. Yet, I could try a new flavor twice a day and go years before I had even come close to tasting them all!

Let loose on this eternal city, after visiting the Vatican, we found ourselves at the Ponte Sant’ Angelo or the Bridge of Angles near Castel Sant’ Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb). Peter and Paul guard either end of the bridge , with angels depicting scenes in the Passion of Christ along the way. Artists create and sell their inspirations of the day while musicians play hoping their gift will be well received.  Down below, tents dot the Tiber River awaiting the sun’s departure and the evening festivities to begin. With little clue as to where we were really headed, my friends and I began following a lead on a favorite gelateria mentioned only as Angelo’s .  When it became apparent that we weren’t finding this on our own, we began asking locals, and tourists alike. Suddenly coming upon a piazza popular for music and performers, we recognized that even if we never found it, that it was certainly a memory in the making. Finally, approaching closing time we came upon a vigili urbani  (municipal police officer ) informing us that what we were looking for wasn’t a place at all. Rather, we had been given the name of the owner of a gelateria, the man behind the counter who he knew quite well.  So it is that in Rome, the destination is is never the full story, but the journey is far more priceless.

Now, while I contemplated a Nutella gelato several times, it remained only a thought- choosing instead to have it smothered on fresh baked bread with my morning cappuccinos dusted with cocoa. (Yes, I did use the plural!) Grazie è meraviglioso..I echoed each day as completed my morning reflection time, and garnnered strength for the day ahead. “Cafe Americana? No, no grazie..cappuchino  per favore!”

Pace,

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Assuming Mary

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 Mary’s yes and assume we know her while failing to see the implications for our lives today?


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
The Manger by Gertrude Kasebier

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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CatholicMom: Daily Gospel Reflection

Gospel Reflections 800x800 gold outline

Daily Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel: Luke 12, 49-53 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

If taken out of the context of the rest of the Gospel, today’s readings can be both startling and confusing. While Jesus spoke often of peace, his message of the Good News invoked anything but peace for those who were reluctant or unwilling to change. Our society today also misleads in convincingly promoting the possibility to hold in tandem oppositional values of hate-love, greed-generosity, inequality-justice, and indulgence-temperance.

These are the crossroads that each of us faces in our everyday decisions to choose to be transformed by the Gospel. Jesus reminds us here that we cannot pursue both paths if we are to follow him. Our commitment to Christ then is to be a marked division from that which does not embrace the truth of his love.

So too, it is a good reminder that there needs to be a passion and fire about who we are as Catholics and who Jesus is in our lives. Does this mean entering into heated arguments or distancing ourselves from those we love but who live in contradiction to the Gospel? No, then we are neither present nor a compelling witness to the Good News we profess.

What it does entail, however, is mutually opening up to the love of Christ and to the realization that we are, in fact, loved. It is to courageously and persistently witness this truth with our very lives. God is waiting on our yes, Christ is counting on our yes, and the Holy Spirit is there to embolden us with the strength needed to express our yes to others.

Ponder:

Can you remember a time when you decidedly choose between where you felt God was leading you and where others wanted you to go? Why is it such a challenge to veer from the agendas of others?

Pray:

Lord, we ask for your help to not be consumed by the things of this world but transformed by your love. And for those times when are challenged to authentically witness truth and love within our families and communities, may we choose to walk your path and keep our eyes fixed on you.

For more Daily Gospel Reflections visit CatholicMom.com.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: 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”.

Wit and Wisdom: On Being Content

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Phillipians 4:11

What is it to be content? When are we satisfied with the life we live and the things we have been given? How does this effect the way we view life and death?

A Modern Day Parable:

Two women both raised in the faith look back on their lives. Each has been blessed with love and children, an education, and though not a surplus each has had all that they need. The first woman having experienced lean times also felt want and sought to never know that feeling again. So, rather than buying to fulfill a need, she buys to fulfill her want. And like a hungry beast that want is never satisfied.

“In this life no one can fulfill his longing nor can any creature fulfill his desire. Only God satisfies, he infinitely exceeds all other pleasures. That is why man can rest in nothing but God.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Likewise, though she gives of herself generously to others, it is never sufficient, it is never enough. And judging herself by the standards of the world, she doesn’t see her life as accomplished, worthy or full. The time before her is slipping and she is not ready. There was so much she had wanted to do, to have had and to have given, and for her death would come too soon.

The second woman

“As sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” 2 Cor 6:10

also had experienced difficult times, yet rather than want she experienced gratitude. God had provided enough for her and her family and met their need. And even in the meager times, she continued to give out of that need, tithing back to God of her time and money. Contentment was found in the small joys, of time spent with others and in love and service- for all was a gift from God.

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.  It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”

Bl. Mother Teresa

No acknowledgment by the world was required, for she knew her worth came from her Creator. Rising early she spent time with her Father in heaven, attentive to his voice and word. She was priceless in his eyes, and her time on earth was to be spent simply learning to love as she had been loved. Her home, though, was not here. It was merely a waiting place for the home which awaited her in heaven. So when death came, she embraced it as an old friend, knowing that those who had gone before her would be there to greet her.

How will we live this life we have been given today?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: All Roads Lead To Rome

It has been said that “All roads lead to Rome” and this morning as I awoke, truly my very thoughts turned to Rome. To the many visual and epicurean feasts for the eyes and palate, but also to those moments which speak to our very soul.  At one time distance itself was measured in proportion to Rome, to the Milliarium Aureum, a monumental marker erected by Emperor Augustus centrally placed in the heart of the city. Dependent and connected through the well constructed Roman roads there seemed little way as a traveler to avoid passing through this jewel of the Empire. Today, we are beckoned here still, to walk in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs that have gone before us and to see where this road is continuing to lead us as a people of faith.

With this in mind, I wanted to invite you to reflectively join me on my last pilgrimage to Rome, as part of a series, and to share your insights and impressions as well from each of these incredible sites of early Christianity. While I am certainly not a noted historian or an archaeologist by trade, I am more accurately termed a theological pilgrim. Moreover, since no discussion of Rome is complete without reminiscences of the incredible food, people and surprises along the way that one encounters, be prepared for these fun diversions too! One such experience can be found in an earlier post entitled “A Spirit Led Day”.

Santa Prassede-Rome, Italy

    

That morning, as my friends and I gathered outside, we were met by the gaze of one of Rome’s poor, disabled elderly. With one foot bound and misshapen, she sat rather motionless and quiet. That is, until Fr. Steve came close!

c. Berthold Werner

Upon entering, my eyes were amazed at the splendid array of brightly colored paintings and golden mosaic images that filled this 9th century Byzantine church.  First, above the altar is an incredible apse depiction of the presentation of St. Prassede (Praxedes) and Prudentiana to Peter and Paul at the river Jordan with Jesus. Here too, you’ll see Pascal I , the then pope surrounded by a square blue halo indicating his assured sainthood upon his death, presenting a model of the church. What is so endearing about this is that we can see that despite being separated by centuries, this continuity of faith, tradition and call to sainthood in our own discipleship.

Interestingly this church is said to hold not only the remains of Sts. Prassede and Prudentiana, but also the remains of many Christian relics from the catacombs that were moved when invaders sought to take control of the area.  As you enter the funeral chapel of St. Zeno, you are prompted for a small euro donation to which the room is suddenly lit with a soft ambient light. Definitely worth the small price, beauty and holy silence envelopes the entirety of this space.

Above you, you’ll see an image of Christ supported by four angels. Above one doorway are the portraits of Pope Paschal’s mother Theodora (with square nimbus indicated she was living at the time), Prassede, Pudenziana, and Agnes.  On the outside doorway is another storytelling mosaic featuring Mary with child, the apostles Peter, Paul James, John and Andrew and Sts. Prassede, Pudenziana, and Agnes.

Also contained within this church is the pillar of black granite that Christ is believed to have been tied to and scourged upon, brought to Rome in 1223.

Amid this splendor, however, I must note the breathtaking crucifix that left me speechless and remains with me to this day.  Tucked away in a side chapel, is this almost life size and lifelike crucifix that is said to have spoken both to Sts. Bridget of Sweden and Francis of Assisi. Here at the feet of Christ I stood, knelt and prayed as countless others before me have done. Yet, in this holy moment I was no longer an onlooker, a spectator of the history that lay before me but a living testimony of the faith. Called to Christ, I too had been inextricably linked to a breadth of tradition and set upon this incredible path to witness his presence in my life today.

Have you been on a pilgrimage to Rome before? If so, what are your favorite sites? Is there significance in your own faith life to the lives of these early Christians?  If not, might I suggest a pilgrimage..even a virtual one?

Peace,

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Martha & Mary: Portraits of Discipleship

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Personally, I have always been able to identify strongly with the personality and perspective of Martha. Ingrained with a strong work ethic and desire to serve, I have been often called and always quick to step forward. Discernment and ample grace have even helped me to see how best to use my gifts to help others.  Yet, with a “Martha” disposition there can also be a temptation to frustration and jump to judgement of those not working.  Likewise while true that “many hands make light work”,  not all are being called to serve at that time.

Two different but essential illustrations of what it is to follow Christ in our daily lives are given here. An inner awareness and desire to seek to simply be with Christ as well as an outer response of that encounter with Christ provides a balanced portrait of what a full life in Christ entails. For how can we serve fully without time and prayer spent at the feet of Jesus? Without our labor being sourced and steeped in love from the One who is love itself? This is the better part that Jesus speaks of- that continual respite and turning of our hearts to God and the journey he has intended. Pulled by the pace of the day and the weight and concerns of life we may have found that we have wandered far away.

Becoming Mary

With a quick cup of coffee, light breakfast and short reflection I pause as I head out the door. Having tended to the most immediate needs of my family, I recognize all of the others things that were left undone. Laundry that needs to be folded, homework that needs supervision, and errands to be run. Very easily I could (as before) allow these loose ends to consume my thoughts and keep me from becoming Mary. What then is the difference in today? Simply, I have chosen in this moment to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen in silence. An appreciation that though the world is moving swiftly my soul is not. As the sunlight streams through my window and the trees sway in the breeze I am in utter awe for the beauty of the day. As the rain beats upon the windshield in the grey of the day I feel refreshed again. Whatever the day might bring, it is here in the place of Mary that I find rest and am able to see God in every detail. Though broken and imperfect, I am loved and this time with my beloved is beyond measure. No longer far away , though the Eucharist I find myself ever closer- intimately sharing in the very real presence of Christ. Breaking into my day, God has confirmed that I am where I am meant to be.

Active like Martha

If our journey were to remain here, I am sure that you might agree it is a graced place to be. And still, like the disciples our path of discipleship carries us out into the world to share this love that we have received. Within our families and communities there is a hunger for love and a tendency to be fed by everything that leaves us unsatisfied and unfulfilled. The need and work ahead can seem overwhelming if we go it alone. That is just it- having spent time with our Father we know we are not alone in the work that we do. Our prayer lifted, our petitions spoken, now with Martha we step ahead. With faith in the one who is always faithful, we seek guidance and strength to be attentive to the needs of others. Following Christ is not passive, but calls forth from us a response and a challenge. Though we know through scripture that Jesus spent much time in prayer he also encountered. The lost, broken, and marginalized sought, taught and healed were not to be his alone.

 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8

Wherever you are in your walk of Christian discipleship take time today to rediscover Mary and Martha. We have much to learn from these two close friends of Jesus, and all of the saints in discerning the path ahead.

Peace,

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