All Roads Lead to Rome: Santa Prassede

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,

Signature

Advertisements

An Engaging Faith: July13th-17th

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 Either Chime Traveler Book: The Secret of the Shamrock  or The Sign of the Carved Cross  (Courtesy Of Franciscan Media Publishing)  

Let’s get moving this week on at An Engaging Faith!

Tune in this week as we travel to.. Jordan with the Faithful Traveler, through Twitter with #CatholicEdChat, through time with Lisa Hendey and Marcellino D’Ambrosio to visit with the Saints!

Monday: Diana Von Glahn,  host and co-producer with her husband, David of The Faithful Traveler,  a television series on EWTN  that looks at travel and pilgrimage through the eyes of faith. Diana explores the art, architecture, history, and doctrine behind shrines and places of pilgrimage around the world. For those who can’t make the travels themselves, Diana hopes to bring these amazing sites into their homes, and enable them to virtually make pilgrimage with her.

Tuesday: Lisa M. Hendey, is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of The Grace of Yes,The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. Lisa’s newest project, the Chime Travelers fiction for elementary school readers, is based upon the lives of the saints. The first two books in the series are The Secret of the Shamrock (St. Patrick) and The Sign of the Carved Cross (St. Kateri Tekakwitha).

Wednesday: 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

Thursday: Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio , world renowned speaker, author, radio and television personality on the Catholic faith joins us to discuss his book, When the Church Was Young:Voices of the Early Fathers, Servant Books (August 22, 2014).

After nine years at Loyola College and the University of Dallas, Dr. D’Ambrosio left academia to direct www.CrossroadsInitiative.com, one of the world’s leading Catholic websites, and to oversee Wellness Opportunities Group, a company promoting physical, mental, and financial freedom.  He, his wife Susan, and their five children reside near Dallas, TX.

Worth Revisiting: We Are Made To Love

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.

Just a year ago Sunday, I began this journey in blogging with each of you- sharing of my own faith experience, the gift of discernment and the incredible encounter of God in our everyday realities. This is my very first post and looking back upon it,  I find it utterly amazing where God has brought me, and continues to guide through the joys and challenges of life. Thank you for your insightful comments, supportive sharing, and the very gift of yourselves in making my journey part of your own!


 

Made To Love

While theology may be a verb, my initial inclination to begin this blog…let’s just say has been less than active.  🙂 With that being said, I awoke early this morning with my heart burning to embark on this journey with you-to share my thoughts, prayers and hopes as a Catholic woman of faith.

Today, I am a student of theology, hopeful saint, follower of Christ, faithful mother, wife, friend, woman … and child of God. This last identification is something that while seemingly basic is essential to recognize in ourselves as well as within each other. Created with a beautiful divine spark, we have been graced with love, each given unique gifts and a desire to grow in that love towards our Beloved. If we accept this premise then we can no longer look at others as less than made in the very image of God. This carries both a sense of awe and wonder, and a responsibility to recognize the great worth and the needs of each of God’s creations. Often quoted as Catholic’s most hidden principles, our social teachings guided by scripture beckon us to embrace our discipleship not as a solitary walk but in solidarity as a community of faith. Going beyond ourselves, our families, our parishes, we have been invited to step out in faith to accept the mission that draws us forth to reach those most in need.

Yet, before we set this as a lofty unachievable goal, this begins quite simply in answering the call to love. Over the last few weeks I have had the privilege to teach summer catechesis to an awesome lively group of 4th graders. Covering the Ten Commandments, and the Be-attitudes, they took hold that it all comes down to the Greatest Commandment: to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Therefore when given a service project to collect personal care items for needy families in our area, our students responded by collecting over 120 items in one week! This brought tears to the eyes of our director of St. Vincent de Paul who further encouraged them to continue in this life of service. It reminds me also as Mother Teresa once said that “What I can do you cannot. What you can do I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God”.

Today, how will we answer this call to love one another with great love?

Book Review: A Purposeful Path

How Far Can You Go With $30, A Bus Ticket, and a Dream?

Ever wonder where God is leading you and yearn to discover or explore your own vocation in life more fully? In Fr. Casey’s A Purposeful Path (Loyola Press), we are invited to do exactly that. By opening ourselves up to being vulnerable and embracing uncertainty we are then able to give way to trust. As a Jesuit novice, Fr. Casey takes us with him on a journey of a lifetime, on his pilgrimage of discerning his identity, vocation and purpose in life.

—-→Who and whose are we?

Our fundamental identity as God’s beloved children, made in the image of our Creator, is our simplest most profound identity in life. From this place we recognize that all other gifts and identities we are to later be given, while important, are lesser than our calling and love experienced as a child of God.  In what is described as a “convergence of heaven and earth”, Fr. Casey finds the words and experience of Maya Angelou resonate deep within his soul reminding him of this infinitely divine love. This is to set the stage in his own journey of transformation and acceptance of God’s plan for him.

—-→The notion of a pilgrimage..

While often we think of a pilgrimage as a journey to a place, it implicitly involves in our humanity a relational connection, compelling a response from us and deeper meaning. The idea of making a pilgrimage acquiesces itself to our identity as a people of God on the move towards both accompaniment and relationship. Though Fr. Casey feels that his pilgrimage is to lead him to a chance meeting with Maya Angelou, he is unsure of how that is to happen or how well he is to be received. Meanwhile, all that he is given to begin the journey is $30 and a bus ticket.

—-→Discerning our path

Fr. Casey’s own pilgrimage leads him first to the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, where he bonds with fellow pilgrims on the trail, and then to the Wake Forrest Campus where he encounters it seems everyone else but Maya Angelou. Dejected and feeling as if he had failed, he then heads to Washington DC. Where again, he meets others with whom he shares commonalities in service and who seem to be directing him back again to an encounter with the poet. Yet, he recognizes that he has a choice does he stay where he is to be of service or let go and let God lead him the rest of the way. To do this requires an unconditional trust in God’s provision and a vulnerability to ask others for help.

—-→How do we meet and traverse the crossroads in life?

Fr. Casey suggests and indeed illustrates that an indelible part of the journey is to continually move forward. Our timing and God’s timing are seldom the same, and while we might not understand the diversions from our perceived destination, this too is important. Learning that none of us are perfect but are perfectly loved, and faithfully provided for, is the start of finding our purpose with hope and joy.

“All my conscious life and energies have been dedicated to the most noble cause: the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own”    Maya Angelou

*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

 Peace,

Signature

Walking the Road of Peace

For as long as I can recall, God has placed deep within me a compelling summons to see and walk the road of peace in the midst of heated disagreements, and to mediate when necessary.  Yet, not a diplomat in a shallow sense, I see the people behind the conflict, and the far reaching consequences of the steps we take today. It is not an easy path, and at times diplomacy entails being disliked by both parties, but the cause of peace and respect for the human person within the human family is worthwhile enough to pursue.

As some may have noticed this past week, I have been noticeably silent as the Scotus decision on the redefinition of civil marriage was proclaimed.  While unwavering in the sanctity of marriage as a sacrament in our faith, I also understand the real need for compassion and active listening. This polarizing issue, which has turned our Facebook profiles rainbow, and overlaid with the Vatican flag for Catholics and non-Catholics alike is a visible expression of the division we have been experiencing as a people of faith.  Many have felt that the need to take this visible stand, and though I understand your need to do so, please consider why I have not.

Most notably, with emotions on the issue at an all time high, a majority of people are responding reactively. Finding ourselves in a position of either defending our beliefs, or asserting alternative ones few seem to be in a position of listening. The immediate consequence that I see is that we begin to alienate whole groups of people by our actions that we choose going forward. I have personally witnessed people selectively removing others that have chosen to bear either flag from their contacts. Where do you go from there, if there is to be true dialogue possible?

I am not arguing for a compromise in values, but instead a time of prayerful discernment in choosing our words and actions. So many things are being spoken from positions of fear, judgment, and righteous indignation without full consideration of their effect. When the dust settles from all of this, we as a people of faith will be truly in want of reconciliation and healing. Given the long breath of our church history, we have been here before as a Church.

Still there may soon come a time when there will be a need to consciously and conscientiously attend to a line drawn by secular intrusions on the practice of the right to religious freedom. That is why this time is so very important. Before we speak, pray. Pray for our shepherds who have been called to lead, that they do so attentive to the teachings of our faith, and pastorally to the people they are to tend to. Pray that everything we do is with the eyes of Christ, and everything we say is spoken with love.

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Poetic Examen-ations

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.

Having just finished an incredible book by Fr. Casey Beaumier, SJ entitled, A Purposeful Path, I found myself reflecting on my own time of discernment in my time at Loyola Chicago. Trusting God in the journey, despite setbacks and struggles, in the everyday joys and consolations, Lord I give it all to You.


This is a day that was long awaited,
A time dreamt of and indeed anticipated,
With months albeit years of preparation,
And a myriad of readings and connotations.
Today, I awoke knowing that there was nowhere I had to be.
There was truly no post to edit,
Or theologian I needed to credit,
An argument carelessly ignored,
Nor deeper meaning to explore.
I now wondered in this stillness what was to be of me.
On the surface I had considered,
Neglected tasks that could be bettered,
Domestic duties that once were small,
Sat waiting to be again forestalled.
Feeling there was a greater more fruitful use of my time.
Where was that book that had been given,
read when my free time too would beckon?
What was it now that I would write,
if granted this instant of respite?
Ah, yes  these too cannot be my compass prime.
For always when I come in prayer,
The answer seems to find me there,
No longer doubt or thoughts amiss,
At the day’s events that carry bliss.
Since You know where it is that I need to be and what I am to do.
But rather surrender to Thy will and grace,
To lead me to my rightful place,
Perchance beside the lost, or dying,
Or counseling a friend whose day is trying-
Where ever my feet are needed to go Lord I give them to You. 
*Find your Inner Iggy and celebrate #31DayswithIgnatius this month at Loyola Press!

 Peace,

Signature

This is Community

This week, as my friends and colleagues can attest, I have been battling a rather persistent cold which has chosen to seize my vocal cords and keep me up at night. Lack of a solid night’s sleep and my stubborn refusal to call it a day or throw in the towel has not been helpful either. Yet, in waking this morning I had to smile. For in my stubborn courage, or selfless foolishness as some might see it, I realized that I had become the epitome of my own mother.  

My mom, I know, had to have been sick at times, but as the sole provider I cannot ever really remember her taking off work. As a farm girl, she was conditioned to rise before dawn and work until sunset, giving her all to each and every day. Though later an adult, her modis operendi had not changed and if I slept past six, I could look forward to a discussion of  how I had chosen to sleep the better part of the day away. There was, in her mind, much to do, to be done, and discover in the day that could not be done whilst lying in bed.

One time, however, when I was about eleven I can clearly recall my mom getting very sick and my own confusion as to how to proceed next. Since it was just the two of us and our family lived at least an hour away, I knew that my mom was now suddenly depending on me. This particular stomach virus that had beset our community had resulted in the hospitalization of the elderly and the young alike. The first two days, I had cared for my mom and myself cooking and cleaning up, while making sure my mom had enough liquids and cool washcloths.

By the third day, though, I was tired and looking into the fridge and cabinets, I knew I was going to have to ask for help soon. Not to mention, I was getting concerned that my mom might need to see a doctor, as she didn’t seem to be looking or feeling any better. Given that it was summer, and I was not seeing my friends at school, essentially no one else knew of the predicament. My mom, a true introvert by nature, had several close friends but was not one whose sudden disappearance from society would readily be questioned. I knew that the time had come when I would have to break the silence, and my mother’s privacy.

In a well placed phone call to my friend Cathy, who belonged to my church, I found solace.

“Cathy, I’m a bit worried about my mom..

Elizabeth, are you taking care of her by yourself?”, suddenly came her aunt’s voice on the other line.

Yes, ma’am. I’m just not sure what more I can do..

Don’t worry.. have you had dinner yet?

No, I was going to see what I could make”, I replied knowing that it would be a Spartan meal at best.

We were just about to sit down ourselves..I will be by in a few minutes with dinner.”

And, just like that I breathed a sigh of relief,  and knew that God had it all covered.

The very next morning, my pastor would bring my mom to the doctor for tests and anti nausea medications. Over the days to follow, the women from the church had prepared each meal that we would need, even bringing fresh well water to eliminate the chance that our water might be a contributing factor. It would be a week before my mom was up on her feet fully, and another two weeks before she could eat normally. As I look back on this moment I cannot help but wonder what I would have done for this length of time without my community, my brothers and sisters in Christ?

This is what it means to truly be a community, to be the body of Christ. We were not ever meant to be alone in our faith, or in the care of others. The reading this Sunday spoke of giving generously, like Christ himself, who gave up his very life so that we could have life eternal.  We are asked to give of our excess, to be content with enough, and to share with those in need. There is, of course, a flip side to this. We have to be able to take help too when we are in need. Maybe you are the one that everyone goes to for assistance, the first on the scene. Allowing others to be of help is an invitation for them to give generously of themselves. It is also an exercise of humility on our part, a suppression of pride, and an opportunity in this moment to experience grace and mercy. How can we give what we do not fully recognize a need for in our own lives?

This week’s challenge..How have I experienced mercy in my own life? Where can I give more fully of myself to my community? Where can I show mercy as a member of the body of Christ?

Peace,

Signature

An Engaging Faith: June 29- July 3rd

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

Fr. Norman Fischer talks about Real Life Radio and Evangelization Through Technology
It’s Catholic Blogger and New Media Week at An Engaging Faith!

Tune in as we look at being an authentic witness of our faith in the world through social media.. 

 
 
 

11348975_10153401530853571_924413151_nMonday: Rita Buettner,   is currently the full-time Director of Marketing & Communications for Loyola University Maryland,  and author of “Open Window” a blog for  The Catholic Review for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. As  a wife and mother of two sons she and her husband adopted from China, Rita’s writing focuses on the topics of  adoption, infertility, and their life as a Catholic family.

Tuesday: Sara Babbs, of Fumbling Toward Grace is a married mother of three, writing from Indiana where she moved for love after growing up on the east coast. Sarah and her husband lead marriage prep classes for their parish in addition to daydreaming about becoming lunatic farmers. During stolen moments when the kids sleep and the laundry multiplies itself, Sarah writes about motherhood, Catholic social thought, and ponders the meaning of being a woman “made in the image of God”.

Wednesday: Tony Angesi, 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.

Thursday: Catholic New Media speaker, consultant and blogger,  Angela Sealana wrote a groundbreaking thesis on evangelization & new media. This stirring work led to her selection and feature in The Church and the New Media by Brandon Vogt.  Angela is currently also working full time in media & ministry for a Catholic evangelization apostolate in San Antonio, Texas. Today, she continues to lift up inspiring examples of Catholics using media at Inspired Angela .

Friday:   Cajuntexasmom lends her candid voice to Ora et Labora et Maternitas (Pray and Work and Motherhood) at Cajuntexasmom.com.  Wife to a former soldier and momma to four small kiddos ages 3-8, she is also the sole breadwinner, working full time outside the home.  Peppering her blog with a smattering of the unique perspectives and everyday challenges of a working Catholic mom, Cajuntexasmom seeks to help build up other moms like her, who wonder if it’s possible to work outside the home and still be a wife and mom striving for sainthood.

Worth Revisiting:Unpacking the Treasures of Our Faith

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.

Today we have joining us on An Engaging Faith at 4pm EST, a good friend and classmate of mine ‎Carlos Castañeda from this class on Theology in Context held at Boston College with Timothy Matovina from Notre Dame. What a treasure each of these men and women are, who in sharing so fully of their faith, enables us to glimpse the beauty found in the diversity of the body of Christ.


Unpacking The Treasures of Our Faith

As one of my BC classmates had so beautifully spoken, now is the time that we realize the joy in “unpacking the treasures of our faith”. In devoting long hours of reading, writing, and contemplating the lived experience of the US Latino/a, we discovered more of our own journeys as well. With each incredibly diverse faith experience we are given insight into our God who desires to be meaningfully encountered in our daily lives.

It is, in a very real sense, a rediscovery of who we are, and who God is calling us to be in the world around us. Yet, it is not a discarding of the past but rather embracing these gifts of faith experienced sacramentally and through prayer, song, and devotion, while reaffirming their significance today.

Theology in ContextAs I gaze at this picture,  I glimpse the divinely created men and women who are an embodiment of a lived theology, whose presence give voice to joy, struggle, and hope. They are, as well, part of the community of faith of the past, present and future hearing the call to respond to challenges, walk in accompaniment, and live out their faith expressively in the world. Muchas gracias y abrazos a todos!

How do you experience God most meaningfully in your life? Is  there a treasure of your faith that draws you nearer? Is there perhaps one yet to be unpacked, its richness yet undiscovered? 

Book Review: Drop by Drop


Loyola Press in Partnership with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Department of Justice, Peace and Development

In this beautifully illustrated book, we follow a young girl named Sylvie from the small country of Burkina Faso in Western Africa and the experience of Mike, a Catholic Relief Services worker working in the region.  Having been invited to speak to the classroom of Sr. Mary Jerome, Mike shares with the students the day-to-day challenges of living in an area of immense poverty. Without ready access to clean accessible water, Sylvie has the job to travel nearly 3 miles to and from the water source to provide water for the family. Because of this, she cannot attend school to learn to read or write, something she so desperately wants to do. While the addition of a water cart is helpful, it isn’t until a well is dug that Sylvie’s dream becomes a reality.

drop-by-drop (41x52)Children will not only connect with Sylvie’s story, but also with the students who listened to her story and were compelled to put their feet in action to work towards lasting solutions to situations of poverty. Included in this book are facts on the importance and accessibility of clean water and the work of the Catholic Church in these areas most in need. Yet, the journey in love through prayer, sacrifice and service does not end there. Additional reflection guides, worksheets and pray with me books are available for parents, catechists and teachers to go deeper in faith.  A must read for adults and children alike, this book is a compelling invitation to connect our faith life with the immense needs of children and families throughout the world.

As a follower of Christ, how do you “put two feet in action” through charitable works and social justice?

Peace,

Signature