Friday, February 22, 2013

We Walk with Christ: Fourth Station

Perhaps the most poignant station of all. 
An injured, bleeding child approaches his mother.
The mother sees her child rejected and shunned by others. We see her eyes.  We know those eyes. They are the eyes of a mother...the windows of the heart.
A thousand mothers...nay, ten thousand times ten mothers...have echoed the same picture. 
Our child runs to us with a tearful face.
Our child's rigid hand catches his fall off his bicycle and a shattered stone cuts into his tender palm.
Our teenager paces restlessly through the house, searching...wanting to approach and not wanting to approach.
Our little princess' eyes well-up with tears because of the gossip and cattiness of others.
We kissed the tear-stained cheek.
We clean and bandage the cut.
We offer a sympathetic smile to the teenager and perhaps finger a lock of hair off the worried brow.
We hug the little girl who too soon turns into a little lady and we give her our undivided attention.
We would rather take their suffering upon our own shoulders than see our child in pain.
At some point today, a child has approached you.  How did you receive Jesus in that child? 
Did you turn, as Mary did, to your child and cup his chin in the palm of your hand?
Did you lean towards him and give a listening smile?
Did you crease the chocolate-smudged cheek? 
Did you look into your child's eyes with such intensity that you could see her soul and count her heartbeats? 
Did you nurse a sick child today? Did you pray over a hurting child today?
Did you listen?  Did you really, really, really listen to him speak?  Did you block out the other noises within your world and listen to the heart that you gave him?
Did you look at her?  Did you really, really, really look at her and realize that in one brief instant, she could be taken away from you?
Did you think about the child who is lost to you, in any number of ways that children can be lost to their parents: death, kidnapping, drugs, unfavorable companions?  These children might not be in your arms right now, but they are in Mary's arms.  She receives them just as she received her son Jesus on His walk to Calvary.  She holds your child in her arms now.
Entrust your child to Mary.  She will bring him to her Son.
Now you must leave that child, knowing he is in the most caring, loving arms (besides your own).  You must let go of that little hand and shoulder your cross a little more bravely to follow Christ the remainder of the way up that long winding hill towards salvation.
We do not like the walk.  We do not desire the walk. We do not welcome the walk. 
But we walk...
It is a path that only mothers know and that only mothers can walk. 
We are thankful that Mary walked it before us.  We have learned how to walk the path because of her example and her grace.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We Walk with Christ: Third Station

Jesus Falls the First Time

How many times have you fallen in life?
How many times have you not been the wife and/or mother that you wanted to be?
How many times have you fallen failed to follow through on projects and tasks?
How many times have you felt as though you could not get up one more morning, one more day?
How many times have you felt as though you could not rise up to the duties in your state of life?
Lay all your failings and your falls at the foot of the cross.  Padre Pio taught that all people should approach the altar in church as though they were approaching the hill of Calvary to join Mary at the blood-stained base of the cross. 
Join Mary at the foot of the cross...and remember that Jesus has redeemed all your shortcomings. He has already lifted them up.  There is no reason for you to stay down in the dirt, beaten and alone.  He has shown you how to rise and shoulder your cross.  Through His Resurrection, He wills you to rise up. 
Do not stay down.  Take up your cross and rise.  As Christians, we have faith.  Rise with faith.  And follow Him.
"God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful." ~ Mother Teresa
                                                    ******

Friday, February 15, 2013

We Walk with Christ: Second Station

Jesus takes up His cross.
Has anyone in your family been ill this Lenten season?
Do you have a loved one in a nursing home?
Did you have to go to the dentist this Lent?
Are you stressing over high gas prices? food budget? electrical fees? prices that you have no control over?
Is your family eating peanut butter sandwiches tonight because of the rising cost of living, not because you're overly heroic or saintly?
Has someone criticized your family size, your educational choice, your vocation of staying home?
Did you try talking to your insurance company today then decided it wasn't worth loosing your religion over?
How are you carrying the cross Christ has asked you to carry with Him?
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."  Mark 8:34
Pray that you might carry your cross joyfully and willing.
"We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless You. Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'm Charmed



People complain that texting is too dry, too impersonal, too noncommittal.
 
And yet...
 
...maybe it's because I'm a writer and my husband understands how much I love the visual word written...
 
...I was totally charmed.
 
Simple yet Sweet. :-)
#worksforme

A Lenten Habit Which Can Save You from Despair

As to your Lent...I can only tell you my own experience.

A mass of good resolutions, I think, are apt to end up in disappointment and to make one depressed.

Also direct fault-uprooting: it makes one concentrate too much on self, and that can be so depressing.

The only resolution I have ever found works is: "Whenever I want to think of myself, I will think of God."

Now, this does not mean, "I will make a long meditation on God," but just some short sharp answer, so to speak, to my thought of self, in God.

For example:

"I am lonely, misunderstood, etc."

"The loneliness of Christ at his trail; the misunderstanding even of his closest friends."

Or:

"I have made a fool of myself."

"Christ mocked---he felt it; he put the mocking first in foretelling his Passion---'The Son of Man shall be mocked, etc.'---made a fool of, before all whom he loved."

Or:

"I can't go on, unhelped."

"Christ couldn't. He couldn't carry the cross without help; he was grateful for human sympathy--Mary Magdalene--his words on that occasion--other examples as they suggest themselves--just pictures that flash through the mind."

This practice becomes a habit, and it is the habit which has saved me from despair!...

Different people have different approaches to Christ.

He has become all things---infant, child, man,---so that we all can approach him in the way easiest for us. The best is to use that way to our heart's content, and not to trouble about any other.

~ Caryll Houselander

{Taken from today's Magnificat}

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

We Walk with Christ: First Station

Christ is condemned to death.
Has anyone falsely accused you of something? Has anyone said something that crushed your spirit and weighed your soul down? Has anyone called you names or shouted obscenities at you?
Christ knows how your pain. 
Pray for your accusers today.  "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do to my peace of mind."
Artwork: Christ Before Pilate by Tintoretto
 
 

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Difficult Decision

{I did not intend to write on this subject. I often find what I write is utterly senseless and against-the-grain of many. There is already too much of everything out there. Why add words to the avalanche of words? Why? Outside my family, my home, and my life; I know nothing. I prefer to let bigger writers take on the bigger issues. But this is one subject that begs some type of mind processing. Writing is how I process things. And so, I write...}

* * * * *
It was 3 or 4 in the morning (I don't remember which as sleep's memory is not reliable) when my husband's Fox News alert woke us. He read it, relayed it with a jolt, we questioned it as though in a dream, then, still in sleep's embrace, we fell back to sleep.

My husband awoke around 5 to get ready for work and turned on the news. I slept another hour then clicked on my smartphone to educate me further.

Even when I fully awoke I did not feel panicked. Had I heard that he had died, I know I would have felt a dreaded sense of insecurity, of finality. To hear plans of resigning was a topic I've already discussed with friends and pondered about aging priests in general. It a subject that I realize could change the definition of my job as director of religious education by next fall.

I also knew that a pope could resign. That seems to be the biggest surprise of all for many Catholics and non-Catholics. 

I was not overtly surprised. Curious, yes, but not surprised.
I find my reaction strange but that was my reaction.

Something else that kept my view practical were the comments made by my 81 year old father last week:
"I've outlived my life. Things are changing too fast." and "Is anything wrong with the Pope? He seems to have aged a lot. He's slowed down quite a bit lately."

As a man in his 80's, my dad  saw through the Pope even while thousands of miles apart. Dad can relate to the Pope's movements, dilemma, and decision. He knows.
So the reality check last week was a reminder to me that our Pope is a man, a weak, frail, aging man.
I also remembered that our Pope did not want to become Pope when first elected. When he came into this position he was at a time in his life when he hoped he could focus peacefully on prayer and God and music.

God had other plans.

If we keep this perspective, none of the events of today are surprising.

In Pat Archbold's column today he writes:

"While we all witnessed an enfeebled holy man suffer great infirmity in love and patience, Cardinal Ratzinger must have seen much more.  He must have seen how during those years of decline the Vatican bureaucracy becomes de facto pope and how that de facto Pope can thwart and subvert the will of the legitimate Pope.  I wonder if Pope Benedict made the decision early that he would not subject the Church to a papacy of bureaucrats?  That when his time came, he would step aside.  We may never know the answer to this question, for the Pope would never say it, but there it is."

I Want My Pope Back by Pat Archbold

I tend to agree with Pat but I am neither a theologian, a prophet, or a Cardinal. My thoughts really don't count and, again, I usually don't get on the band wagon because there are too many great writers with bigger columns out there who know more than I. But this is my personal white space, be it as it may. Because of that, and the randomness of my thought process, I share my thoughts and my one concern here in this space.

While not shocked, speechless, or panicked; there is a certain worry that I cannot shake off.

It began a couple years ago at a Mother's Night Out with friends when someone mentioned a priest we all knew  who was retiring. One of my friends struck the table with an emphatic, passionate fist full of napkin and said, "I still say a priest cannot retire from their vocation. That would be like me telling my husband and family 'I've decided to retire' from being a wife and mother when I turn 80. Ridiculous."

She was pretty passionate about the whole topic.

And I've thought about it ever since. Once a priest, always a priest. And couples are married in the sight of God until death do us part. But these are vocations, not jobs. Still, with vocations come duties that we provide to our families even when we become old and feeble. I see it with my own parents. They are aging yet still serve one another. Only death will end their commitment to this holy office and to their serving one another and their family.

I think the unopened can of worms is when we start questioning, if the Pope can resign from his vocational duties, if priests can retire from their duties, when can married spouses resign from theirs? That's a scary concern. Did St. Peter resign? No, he died a martyr for the faith.

Is this something new to ponder in the 21st century?

And yet Pope Celestine V resigned in the year 1294 and he went on to become a saint. And that is our ultimate goal. To become saints.

The first pope St. Peter died a martyr's death. Pope Celestine resigned. Pope JP II served until a natural death. We know them all to be saints.

God's time is not our time. God's ways are not our ways.

It gets confusing and complicated. I can go still deeper but respect for my Catholic faith gives me a courtesy of remaining silent. Because I have faith in something more than myself. This is not about me. And this is not about Pope Benedict.

And he knows it isn't. He has taken it to prayer over and over again. He has fought the good fight and been a steadfast warrior.

As always, Archbishop puts it beautifully:

"From his work as a young theologian at Vatican II to his ministry as universal pastor of the Church, Joseph Ratzinger has served God and the global Christian community with intelligence, eloquence and extraordinary self-sacrifice.

As Pope Benedict XVI, he has led God's people through complicated times with uncommon grace, and his stepping down now, at 85, from the burdens of his office is another sign of his placing the needs of the Church above his own. Catholics worldwide owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He will remain in our hearts and always be in our prayers."  ~
Archbishop Charles Chaput


I truly believe there is a rhyme and reason to this madness.

Do I think the past eight years have taken their toil on Pope Benedict's mind as well as his body?
Without a doubt. He has, more than any of us, become acquainted with this madness. Anyone who works for the church sees the madness. It's finding God within the madness that demands faith.

Pope Benedict knows where to find God. The Pope feels he must decrease so that God can increase. (John 3:30) There are periods in our lives when this must happen. Do we listen to the Holy Spirit or go about our own agenda?

Pope Benedict saw his successor Pope JP II serve until death. He knows things we do not. And he only owes explanation to God alone. For any of us who think we deserve an explanation, we need to remember who we are and who HE is.

There are times we look at our Church and are tempted to sigh in despair. The Church is like a pre-teen child with annoying moods, crooked teeth, and an argumentative personality. A mother see things she would change about her child and, yes, even things that need to be changed but she still loves her child. Do we look at the Church with this unconditional love? I believe Pope Benedict XVI does.

And there comes a time, when the mother must let the child go.

For whatever reason, Pope Benedict believes he can better serve the church and fulfill his vocation through prayer. In many ways the Pope is choosing the better part.

I know exactly where the Pope stands. I contemplate, at times, the insignificance of my task as a DRE (director of religious education). Do I really make a difference? Isn't this all futile? What matters and what doesn't matter?

There are times I think resigning from my office as DRE would be the right thing to do. Then I could just forget the tedious paper work and pray for the Church. I could forget the cynical children and pray for the future Church. Forget the anxious parents and pray for souls. I could forget the worried teachers and just pray.

Yet, today, God calls. I love this work and I have not heard His voice clearly telling me to stop. I take it to prayer every year. I know when the answer comes, I will know. There will be someone there to fill my position just as I filled a call from God when I was asked to do so. And, most of all, there will be peace.

What I know matters is that we serve an awesome God, in many different ways, each one of us.
Do we serve Him well no matter where...whether we serve in an old dusty CCD building, in a home with family, in the active Vatican, or in the quiet of a monastery.

It isn't where do we serve. It's how do we serve.

Sometimes prayer is enough.

Ironically, Pope Benedict has given us the blessing of this Year of Faith which I think is an honest representation of the kind of legacy he leaves behind. In a sense, he is reminding us that we all have a vocation to serve, to spread the Gospel, to evangelize and, most of all, to keep the faith alive through the Church.

Still the Holy Spirit needs a megaphone. There is someone out there God is calling to be our voice within the Church for however long HE wills it. Let's pray this someone answers that call. And let's be grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for answering the call so generously these past eight years.

Our Lent begins with this prayer. May the Holy Spirit guide us all.

* * * * *

Novena prayer for a conclave

Heavenly Father,
We, the people of God, gathered in solidarity as did the disciples in the Upper Room, pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the cardinals who will be in conclave for the election of the next Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the hearts of our cardinals be open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, beyond any human judgment, to elect the candidate most pleasing to you, Heavenly Father, and who will guide the Church at this momentous time in history and the beginning of the Third Millenium.

We invoke our Mother Mary, united in prayer with the disciples in the Upper Room, to intercede for our cardinals to select the next Holy Father in docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, her divine Spouse. With Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, we entrust this conclave to your maternal and Immaculate Heart, and offer these prayers for your guidance and protection over the choosing of the next Vicar of your Son.

1 Our Father
1 Hail Mary
1 Glory Be

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!
  
   

Friday, February 8, 2013

MayMay's Memories


Today I am transferring some hap-hazard notes from my iphone into this space. These notes are the pattern of a new period in my life known by many as grandmothering. It's a period that will be swifter and more forgiving than my parenting years.

I think of the 21st century world my grandchildren will grow up in. It is a world that is ever technical, ever extroverted, ever quickening, and ever demanding.

I want MayMay's house to be the hobbit-hole (Annie just came in and read this line and laughed at the image), the place set apart, the one filled with thoughtful adventures, lasting traditions, hopeful optimism, restful peace, and happy memories.

Tall order, some might say.
Your plans will not work out the way you predict, other might say.

True.

But these same refrains were made when I brought home my first baby.

Refrains such as, "You cannot stay home and make it in today's world without two paychecks."
"Your children need social interaction that only daycare and school can provide."
"Tall order."
"Your plans will not work out the way you predict."

True, some plans did not work out; but many more did.

Call me na├»ve, but I did not like what I saw outside my home twenty years ago. I like it even less today. That doesn't mean I can change it. But there is one place I can change. And God has placed me there to guard it and to bless it as only I am able.

Home.

Home has been the focus all my life. I see the value where others see the missing paycheck. I see the creative possibilities where others see the boredom. I see the hope where others see the failures. I chose a different road, a road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
Others might scoff at my choice but I find peace in taking the road God planned for me.

Home, by definition, is:
  • The abiding place of the affections, especially of the domestic affections.
  • The locality where a thing is usually found, or was first found, or where it is naturally abundant
  • A place of refuge and rest

  • I sought out like-mind friends and found a community rich with the same ideals and creative powers they willingly shared. Most of all, these families were fun and full-of-life. Other people began following that road less traveled and they have made a difference in my life and that of my family's.

    I'm ready for this second life-phase and yet, knowing how quickly it will pass, I mean to start now (while my first grandbaby is a mere two months old), to embrace it and live it well...with purpose, with intent, with love, and, most of all, with faith.

    I hear the naysayers loud and clear. Within my own family there have been divorces and grandchildren seen only on weekends, there has been hurt and pain, and expectations unfulfilled. Weekly I admire grandparents who have been forced to become parents once again. Some have been confidential on the hardships and demands of this new reality. Others have wept the trials of being denied knowing their grandchildren. Yet, whether my grandchildren live next door and I see them every day or I see them once a month or they move out-of-state and I only see them twice a year, I choose to do something small, however small, to make a difference---if to no one else---in the lives of my grandbabies. I choose to celebrate every moment they cross over my threshold.

    I am not my grandchildren's parent and, personally, it's one of the things I find nicest in the land of MayMayhood. I don't have to make life-changing decisions and I don't have to be the bad-guy. I know how gnarly day-to-day life gets for parents. Parenting is stressful. I want my house to be a place set-apart, a moment remembered, an ideal realized, a sanctuary in the middle of a world gone mad.

    Really my goal is very simple. I want to be the grandmother smiling at the door with a hot plate of homemade cookies inside. That's the ideal.


    The reality, as far as the present moment, is that Hudson is asleep in his bassinet while I type. Every time an outside dog barks, the inside dog barks and I have to get up to quiet her. And I need to go tell Annie to stop her duct-tape art projects and do another lesson in math. Hudson's Parian is sitting next to me in my office reading Obama jokes off his phone and laughing out loud. (He's fixing to start a 4-night work shift tonight so all will be quiet once again. And I'll sure miss his daily visits.)


    And there are no homemade cookies in the oven, but there is a half-eaten King Cake and leftover brownies on the kitchen counter.

    This is my home in reality.

    The ideal is one I keep closely in my heart and soul. My family doesn't often see the ideal because it is not something I share loosely on blog or paper. Some things cannot be put in words for fear the ideal is lost.

    One day I'll be gone and I want, most of all, not precious words upon my tombstone but, rather, precious memories on the minds and hearts of the little ones God sends to our family's doorstep.

    Thus, MayMay's Memories begin.




     
     

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