Worth Revisiting: Grandma’s Lessons

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My grandma was a teacher- as was my grandpa, my mom and all but one of their children. Long after her classroom days, she continued to teach in Sunday school and most profoundly by the sheer witness of her life. I spent many a summer day there, learning even when I failed to recognize that indeed there was a lesson she was passing on. So, with a bit of humor, I share a few of the finer points of her credo that have remained with me over the years.

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Grandma Ferrell (top left) with local school children
  1. The Early Bird Gets the Berry- I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. (Ps.119:47)

Literally. Having grown up on the farm, she was accustomed to getting up early and starting the chores before the sun raised its weary head. Quickly donning a work shirt, and galoshes we each would grab hold of the small green baskets to gather the blackberries that grew all along the outskirts of her property.  What a treasure these berries were! So much so that, if left unattended, there would be little of the spoil for the taking after the birds had their bellies filled. After our collecting, and sitting down to breakfast, Grandma would spend some early quiet time in reading scripture, pausing to pray and taking notes. There was a lesson in the importance in all her motions, an ordering of her day and awareness of the One who created it all.

  1. Waste not..you’ll miss it the second time around!- When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)

The small plot of land behind her home beheld a large garden, overflowing with vegetables and fruits of every kind. Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, beans, okra, strawberries, rhubarb..all had a purpose long after the growing season. What she could not eat or bake into pies was canned and set aside for the long winter months. Often given the duty of procuring a jar of preserves or apple butter, my eyes would light up at getting to choose which sweet goodness to spread on my toast in the morning. This philosophy extended to meals as well, and each was packaged, labeled and placed in the freezer for a later date. All was a gift from God, and as such was to be valued rather than easily discarded. I too have carried this forth in my family and even find a special delight in creatively repurposing food to equally enjoy it the second time around.

  1. Set Sunday aside for God..or you just might be given a reminder! “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”(Exodus 20:8)

While my grandma wasn’t superstitious or fearful of God, she did share with me an amusing childhood story that kept her from letting her completion of work dominate her Sabbath. Her mom, my G. Grandma Connelly, was a busy bee- always moving from task to task. And when not working, she was socializing with everyone. One morning before Sunday service, she suddenly remembered that she had been chatting the day before instead of collecting the eggs from the hens. Swiftly she moved, gathering the eggs and placing them neatly in a wicker basket on the back porch steps making it just in time for church.  Sitting in the pew, she smiled to herself that it all got done. Yet coming home, to her surprise, she was met not with a basket full of eggs, but a curled up snake resting after its catered meal.

To this day, when I find myself in mass running down the laundry list of things done or things to do I am reminded of this antidote. What good is the work done if I neglect to prayerfully give focus to the readings or God’s presence? If I am in such a hurry to get to those chores, that I leave communion and community without awe and appreciation for the gifts received?  Carried forth into everything I do that day, it is to be my guide. In truth, every day is to be holy, properly balanced and ordered. Still, we all need time to rest and replenish both physically and spiritually from the week. Taking this time is recommended care for our bodies and souls.

Reflect:

How have I made time for God in my day? In my week? Is there any waste in my life? Do I recognize the need for both work and rest? For communion and community?

Peace,

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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!

Worth Revisiting: Invited into Community

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.

Have an hour to spare and share on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon or weekday morning after mass?  I cannot think of a better way to spend such a short amount of time than bringing communion to others. These ineffable moments of grace are truly invitations to not only bring the body of Christ, but to recognize the fullness of being the body of Christ.  What if for reasons of health, age or circumstance, you could no longer receive communion? Hear a knock? Open your heart today..


Invited into Community: The Joy of Eucharistic Ministry

eucharist-2“The Eucharist is not something we do simply to commemorate what Jesus did for us. Rather it is something that Christ does for us, filling us with grace and nourishing us with His own life. Let us live the Eucharist, in a spirit of joy and concern for all our brothers and sisters in need”. Pope Francis

This morning, I was thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know) about how incredibly busy, but restful and fulfilling my Sunday had been. While it seems odd perhaps to hold these adjectives together I believe that they highlight what it really means, to me, to “work six and rest one” in keeping the Sabbath holy. As so often the case, in anticipation of Sunday, there was an extra spring in my step as I reflected and then prepared for the day ahead. You see, my joy is not solely in going to mass with my immediate family, but is found in joining my larger family in Christ, in sharing communion together. Here, I am graced with brothers and sisters from varied backgrounds, of all ages, and nationalities each praying to the same Father. Each resting the work of their own hands, to bring all that they are- to be blessed and broken and enjoined as one in the beautiful sacrifice of Christ.

As a Eucharistic minister, I witness this so profoundly as each person steps forward to receive Christ. Some hands are soft, others rugged and worn, nonetheless within their eyes, I see God…and what a beautiful sight that is to behold!  At times I sense their sadness, others times their joy and still others their deep appreciation for this moment to pause to recognize Christ present with us. Each carrying the deep imprint of God on their souls, and each with the invitation to make Christ visible today.

Yet, what of those in our community, who because of age, illness or injury cannot be with us on Sunday? While many of us were able to experience the beautiful mystery of Christ’s presence this Sunday in the Eucharist, imagine if you could not. So often we might take for granted the ability to come and partake in communion together, yet for so many of our “family” this not an option.So in reading this,  I am asking you to please consider offering your gift of faith, love and service  to bring Christ, made truly present in the Eucharist and in our community, into their lives as well.

I promise, the joy and love that God provides in this ministry is one that can forever change your own life and serve as a continual source of blessing. This has been the experience of my husband and I, who have been serving for the past five years. We feel graced to have been witnesses to the sacred, these moments of profound gratitude, and light of Christ’s love into their lives.

So, what does this gift require? Our time spent in total at a facility is about an hour, although admittedly quite often we choose to spend longer! Perhaps you may be able to go once a week, yet if you can only go every other week, or visit someone home bound, you will be providing an immeasurable gift that might make their reception of the Eucharist possible.

In faith and prayer, I ask that you consider this beautiful ministry. God Bless-


Worth Revisiting: Coffee, Communion & Conversation

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.

So, many of us are quite familiar with the 3-R’s of Reading Writing, and Arithmetic in our academic studies.. but our faith lives have their own necessities too! From which come 3 of my own favorite C’s of spiritual reflective prompts!


Coffee, Communion & Conversation

With cheers and tears, I have begun thinking about the back-to-school essentials for my children who are, by the way, returning next week. Likewise, as with any good Jesuit student, it has been a cue for me to reflect on my own much needed necessities at this time in my life as well.  While there are of course countless others that could be included in this list, these chosen three are the ones that leapt to the forefront of my mind!

1. Coffee- (Substitute tea, juice or a smoothie for those that find those more preferable.)

Strong, and certainly caffeinated, the inviting aroma beckons me to take seriously the day’s events ahead. This is my time for morning reflection, and perhaps one of the few times during the day that I will sit still without a project, paper, or errand to complete. It is quite literally the reminder for me to re-fill my cup- to empty myself and the events of the day prior so that I can be able to accept and embrace God’s gift of self in my every moment. Not the least of which are the many requests upon my own time.

Father, you ask us to be still and know that You are God, that you are always with us at the break of each new day, and that with you we will not be shaken. (Ps.46:6-11) Fill me with your love, grace, and compassion for those who might need you most today.

  2. Communion (daily if at all possible!)

Several years ago, after having made my Cusillo retreat, I consciously resolved to attend daily mass whenever the time allowed. Yet, initially, this commitment was but a new curiosity, filled with an unknowing of whether I could continue, or how I would be affected in my own spiritual growth. One morning in particular, in that first week, I noticed a woman about my own age, and felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to speak with her after mass. Having seen her before on Sunday mornings with her family, I remarked how happy I was to have another mom with small children there that day. Smiling, and with all earnestness she said something that moved me profoundly.

“I’m here because this is where I need to be as a mom, it is my time to regroup, talk to God, and gain the strength to be the mom that God wants me to be”.

Her words were meant for me, and found a dwelling place deep within my heart. God wants to do something great for me in giving me the tools and the space to break into my ordinary with the extraordinary experience of this intimate closeness with Christ. I think of this moment often these days as I slide into the pew, kneel before Christ, and let out the biggest sigh, a breath of relief that I actually made it there. No matter how I arrive- rushed, anxious, or frustrated, I leave transformed in heart, mind and spirit. As I think about the future after graduate school, I have already begun thinking about daily mass times in the area that might allow me to continue this now essential time with God in my day.

IMG_06163. Conversation(Lots, with those that uplift and draw you closer to Christ)

As you may have noticed my precursor to this one, conversation just for conversations sake isn’t essential at all. In fact, the wrong conversations are draining, disruptive, and detrimental to both you and all those in your life. We have all, at some point found ourselves in these instances, whereby the conversation turns gossipy, argumentative, or judgmental towards others. Yet, as a mom of school aged children whose time is limited anyway, I can honestly say I leave these conversations feeling unsatisfied. The question I keep returning to is whether this is healthy for me even if I am not participating.

Conversely, the right conversations lead us and others nearer to where God wants us to be, and leave us knowing our time was well spent. They inspire, nourish, enlighten, support, and buoy us up when we need to feel God’s love most. They remind us to listen deeply and speak when needed. These are moments of awareness to the Holy Spirit’s presence  guiding and filling us with peace and joy.

One of the best assignments I have been given in my graduate ministry work, in lieu of reading, was to take time to pursue that which uplifts us. Here, I was given a week set aside to reconnect, to decompress, and renew. Not surprisingly, I made sure that I met with those also in ministry to give them that much needed break as well. So essential is this for me, that I do this now on a regular basis!

With much gratitude to my advisor, friend (and creator of the above assignment), Eileen Daily for helping me to see that self-care is not selfish but vital if I am to be of help to myself much less anyone else!

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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!