Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Of "Holy" Men

We have been very blessed in Atlanta to have many seminarians, about 50! Men willing to give their lives to the service of the ministerial priesthood. At St. Vincent de Paul in Dallas, we were especially blessed over the past couple of years to have two transitional deacons, spend their year with our parish. Living in our "rural but growing" community in GA, growing in formation for the priesthood with our Pastor, Fr. Adrian Pleus.

We also have had other seminarians involved with our Parish through their formation, one assisting through a summer break, and another a part of our Parish with his family, who attended and served many masses through his years of formation. In fact, 3 have now celebrated their first mass with our humble "but growing" community. Growing up in the catholic church, I do not remember a time that parishes were involved in Praying for Vocations. This is something I learned about here in Atlanta. I received a postcard sized card with a picture of a seminarian and his address on it from a seminarian's mother a few years ago. I accepted it and wrote to the seminarian, admittedly probably once. But, I started praying a prayer for priests.

I have been so fortunate to have been on pilgrimage to Italy, Portugal-Spain-France, and the Holy Land. Again, at every stop, whichever seminarians we were praying for at the time, plus all seminarians especially those in Atlanta received intentions at Masses in Assisi, Rome, in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Fatima, Lourdes, and Lisieux. I pray in thanksgiving that these men are discerning the priesthood, and also for their courage, and strength, but especially that they will become Holy priests by God's grace. This is their prayer as well, as one seminarian shared with me. As we are people they are ministering to, we need to be praying for them! Not judging, not challenging, no expectations...just giving the same mercy, compassion, and love that they are giving us. And, that starts with prayer. Lots of it.

The fruit of all these years in prayer for our Priests and Vocations brought about a very interesting year for me. During this Year of the Priest, I had a new understanding of how difficult this calling truly is. Yes, they are human. Yes, they have tough days like you and me. But, at the same time, they are called to be holy right?

"Much will be required of the person with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."

After learning of a difficult situation, I prayed, and cried, and was overwhelmed with compassion for one of the priests my family had prayed for long ago. The magnifying glass held by the people, needs to magnify the Lord - not the individual mistakes we all make. Through my prayer, and study of Hebrews 7 and Psalm 110, I put together a special rosary, the "You Are A Priest Forever Rosary". With different materials for each of the decades reflecting on the beauty, and the difficulty of the vocation. I have made and given them so far as gifts to 3 of the Holy men God has brought to my path, and I have decided now to offer these as a special order - with the ability to engrave initials and date of ordination or anniversary - and somehow offer the net profits to the Seminarians of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

They will be available at

And with immense thanksgiving to the Lord for Fr. Adrian, Fr. Ignacio, Fr. Omar, Fr. Mario, Fr. Tom, Fr. Brian, Fr. Juan, and Fr. G, and all the seminarians in the Archdiocese I pray:

O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for your lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests.

But above all I recommend to you the priests dearest to me; the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me; the priests at whose Masses I assisted in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me; all the priests whom I am indebted in any other way. O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Our "Life-giving" Gifts

July has certainly been a month for prayer. I had started out the month with concerns of a possible "lump" or "mass" seen in my check up. Rather than re-filming right away though, a look at history was a more conservative way to go so we needed to wait for films to be sent, etc.
I had decided not to have any concern, as there is some benign history in my family tree - and it was likely along the same lines. I really wanted to focus on not getting worried. Still every now and then there were fleeting thoughts of "what ifs"... and "how would"... with every effort to remind myself that not knowing anything yet was no cause to despair. My focus quickly turned to those who are suffering, and to those that did suffer so much, and we lost not so long ago. During this time of not knowing if there was or wasn't an issue, I put together the above Pink Ribbon Rosary in honor and memory of my dear friend Cyndi.
Also, during this last week, a much more difficult experience happened to another dear friend of mine. After suffering an illness after a surgery, it was explained to her that she likely had cancer, but it required further testing to confirm. Prayers were fervent for this woman, intercessory prayers requested from all over. The news after testing was even more grim. The family was devastated - preparing themselves for the "what ifs" that just became their reality. Working through an initial mourning at an impending loss that would take away a wife, a mother, a grandmother... then, a bit later the same day, another call. The final pathology this time shared a different story - "it's not cancer after all..." he said. Yes, I'm told it was a roller coaster of emotion.
That same evening, in looking at the San Damiano Cross icon, our priest was pointing out a few of the icon images - "and here's Lazarus with the burial cloths wrapped still on his head". And, just then we spoke of how this family had suffered a loss, and gained a life back in the same day. In their eyes, truly a miracle.
How often have we suffered a death, only to have the gift of life given back to us in the Lord's immeasurable mercy, and we don't even see it? This "good news" that was shared with this family, and within our parish truly has given us a fresh look at appreciating those around us, and finding life after death. When I see a newly baptized member of our church, it is such a heartwarming moment of "new life". The same when seeing a married couple that can renew their life of love, after years of challenges, and the priest through the mercy of God absolving us of the deadness of sin, through the healing or "life-giving" sacrament of Reconciliation. The story of Lazarus really gives us the opportunity to see how precious our lives are, and how much we are loved.
So today, at the end of July, I received my little "life" moment. After viewing more films, the radiologist assured us that there was nothing there, I was fine. While I do not want to make something out of nothing, I am so thankful for this gift I received. Looking at life a little differently, not for worries sake; for the opportunity to look around and appreciate even more the grace that I am given each day I live my life, and every blessing I receive.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Faithful Servant Arts...What's in a name?

One retreat morning years ago, at my place setting, (randomly chosen)(?) was a tile that had the words "Faithful Servant". I have kept the tile in front of my mirror for years.

It is very strange, the twists and turns life takes when I participate in it. Yes, I admit, I fully participate in my life, the best that I can. A strange comment, sure, but as I look back on what has led me to where I am today, I am certain it cannot be me. I would have never in my life expected to be a blogging, etsy-arts-crafting, cd slinging, twittering catholic. Yet, here I am. And, yes "Jesus, I do trust in you."

Putting out a CD has never been on my "bucket list", but, once I read about Mother Antonia and her sister's and the lives of Mercy that they emulate - I really wanted to do something to help earn some money to send to them. The Divine Mercy message has such meaning in my life, that putting together Mercy is... became a way for me to help spread the message, and help a cause that helps others realize that mercy.

Also, I have certainly been interested in art as a hobby, first with drawing, as a release I guess. Starting in my 40's, I really just wanted something to do on my own. I found that the most meaningful pieces to me were those that were an expression of faith. In hindsight, this is not so surprising since I had really stopped "performing" any music years ago - yet am so richly engrossed in the beauty of music in the liturgy. Able to let go of my insecurities, and participate in the love of music in my life at mass. There is no place I would rather sing than with the angels during Holy Mass.

So, completing the cd, and having photography, and arts, filling my soul (and my shelves for that matter), I realized my true interests lie in whatever I can humbly do that will glorify God. This is where "Faithful Servant Arts" comes from. First, I strive to be a faith-filled, and thankful child of the Lord; a true servant (in-training, I am nowhere near the servant that Mary was, or many other saints ), and perhaps through my expression of love for the Lord - some might see Arts.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Blessed Virgin and the Priesthood

(click on title for link)

The Blessed Virgin and the Priesthood

This is a beautiful quote that I came across today. It was enjoyable to read this after celebrating the ordination of 6 new Priests in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, yesterday. And, attending the first Mass of Fr. Mario Lopez at our humble parish in Dallas, GA.

I enjoyed reading this today particularly because the homily today, given by a great friend and brother Priest of Fr. Mario’s, was very touching. So many beautiful things were said, including the recommendation that Fr. Mario stay close to our Mother Mary. That she is always there. I do wish I could remember his exact words, as they were so beautiful. However, it was such a beautiful reminder that she is there for us, to intercede for us, lovingly calling each one of us to her Son. And, in a very special way, she is there for and by all of our wonderful Priests.

Let us continue to remember all of our Priests as we offer up a Rosary each week; especially Pope Benedict XVI.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - Ecce Homo

In keeping with yesterday I suggest that the services available to us as on Good Friday are for all to share. For a deeper experience of the joy of Easter, why not look further into the Passion, or death of Christ. I have been questioned as to why we "catholics" don't let go of the crucifixion, after all, Jesus rose from the dead! There are so many responses to just that question, I prefer to smile and agree that yes Jesus is risen - but, I cannot forget what he went through for my sins.

However, this year, I've had an even different take on the inner-experience of Good Friday. So many years I have gone through Good Friday with dread. Yes, I know it's not supposed to be a picnic. But, never connected to the Hour of Mercy, and the actual somberness of the day. I know you are "supposed" to be somber - but, in reality, in the 20th/21st century, I didn't really feel it. I knew that Easter is coming, and let us not forget that we live in the age of the risen Christ.

So, this morning, I thought to myself - what would it have been like to love the Lord as I do now, but, in Jesus' time. To know, love, and follow his teachings but not have any idea what would happen after today. The dread of watching, not able to do anything to stop it. The absolute pain of watching a loved one die. And then, at 3pm, "it is finished..."

I would think there would be inconsolable sorrow.

I started understanding why we would not work, why we would not carry on with normal day to day activities. It has not happened very often in my life yet, but, you know the moment when you first learn that someone very close to you has died? Each time I experience moments that I can only explain by saying that time seems to stand still - and nothing else matters. As if my soul reaches out to heaven, to God; whether for comfort or understanding, or just to say goodbye. I am sure it could be explained away by "shock", or some great medical term. But, I still believe, that there is a moment of time, or timelessness that is merely for the soul.

I think that time for the soul to takeover, to adore, thank, love, and just be, is very appropriate for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Even in my business of the day, I will try to be nothing today -

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday, not for "church ladies" Only

Tonight starts the most moving of Liturgical seasons of the church. The Triduum. I grew up with very little understanding of the liturgy, and how it all comes together - but, now I can't imagine an Easter without Holy Thursday - Good Friday - and the Easter Vigil. There are times that even my family refer to me as the "churchy" one - and yes, I come by that name honestly, but I want to share where though God's mercy, wisdom, and grace this is for everyone. Not just your "churchy" relatives, or acquaintances.

Tonight's liturgy, Holy Thursday! I absolutely love everything about this Mass. "Mass of The Lord's Supper", I've also heard the name Institution of the Holy Eucharist. A great video for anyone to watch about the Eucharist is "The Fourth Cup" by Scott Hahn. Tonight we will experience Jesus' Passover supper where he offered the Eucharist for the first time, "Do this in remembrance of me..." After the readings, or Liturgy of the Word, and Homily, or teaching, we will be eye witnesses to the Priesthood's call to service. The true priesthood that so many of us do not see.

At this point, the priest takes off his Chasuble, or outer garment that he wears, and ties I think an apron or towel around his waist. Then gets down on his knees and one by one washes the feet of 12 people in the church. (I pause here to recognize that there are many varying ways this is celebrated). We presently have only men represented as the 12 apostles; but a few years back I had the humbling experience of being one of the 12. I can't express how humbling this experience is. Not humbling in any way that you might think. Like washing my feet a dozen times before getting to church - humbling because - this man, chosen by God to bring Himself to us in the Eucharist, with anointed hands, is pouring water over my feet, and drying them. I couldn't help but think of Christ at that moment, and how much he loves each and every person. And, this love that he shares that starts in our community by our priest, must be shared by each and every person with each other.

In today's Magnificat the is a message by Pope Benedict XVI:

"When the Lord of the world comes and undertakes the slave's task of foot-washing - which is an illustration of the way he washes our feet all through our lives - we have a totally different picture. God doesn't want to trample on us, but kneels down before us so as to exalt us. The mystery of the greatness of God is seen precisely in the fact that he can be small... Only when power is changed from the inside, and we accept Jesus and his way of life, whose whole self is there in the action of foot-washing, only then can the world be healed and the people be able to live at peace with one another."

Mass continues after this with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After communion, there is a brief period of silence before the Transfer of the Holy Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament is processed through the church, and taken to a place of reposition. In our case with limited space, a tabernacle waits in another room that has been turned into a garden scene. Pange Lingua is sung as we all process into the garden, until the Blessed Sacrament is brought to the tabernacle reposition, when we sing Tantum Ergo. It is beautiful.

We then have the opportunity to stay in the garden and pray,

"When he arrived at the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not undergo the test." After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done." Luke 22:40-42, ...

When praying often I might meditate on the sorrowful mysteries, and think of this dear man, my God, crying with so much fervor and anxiety that he sweat drops of blood. How can I not pray at that moment, thankful and humble for our Savior's love for us.

Now, I offer you this thought, there is nothing wacky or extra "churchy" about understanding more about our Priesthood, the Eucharist, and the love and passion of our Lord right? Yes, it might take a bit more than an hour - but again, I cannot imagine an Easter without it!

Praise God for our Savior!

Praise God for the Priesthood!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lent, lambs, and Other Things

This year Lent kind of "came in like a lamb" for me. It was just here all of the sudden. Strange. I knew it was coming, we even had king cake...but all the hoopla that was created to get ready for Lent kind of left me "empty". Maybe that's the idea (?) Normally, for me, no hoopla, no king cake, masks, parades, or even Gumbo. As strange as it might seem, I really love the whole season of Lent, leading up to the Triduum, and then a bright and triumphant Easter. More time with the Lord in prayer, fasting, almsgiving...pillars of our faith. Yet, I am not experiencing much a difference in my lifestyle, even though I am attending mass during the week more often, we are saving in our rice bowl to give to give to CRS, and fasting is almost happening undeliberately.

I have had seasons in my life that were much more "powerful" in prayer and deed; it just seems that this year the motions are there, but the business of my life is too - and I'm not sure which I'm paying more attention to.

Yet, Lent is happening all around me - this is what is so interesting, "not by my own will, but yours be done."

We have talked for months of starting an Hour of Mercy at our Parish. I am not the quickest at getting things off the ground. But, someone came to me and asked, can't we start this for Lent at least? And, so we did. Friday afternoon at 3pm, I am there to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Stations of the Cross, and pray in front of the reposed Blessed Sacrament. This has become a most beautiful part of my week.

Each Friday so far I have learned of real life situations that are desperate, victims of crimes unheard of, illnesses that are all consuming, and people in despair so far they are not sure they want to live. There is so much to pray for!! The victims, the offenders, the sick, the despairing. I am almost enveloped by the grief of it all, and yet, I am praying ever more fervently. We can't stop praying!! I am reminded constantly how feeble I really am compared to the reality of what is around me, but with the presence of God and his angels and saints, there is a strength I can't describe. With prayers of faith, hope, and love...I pray for the man that is caught in a web of sin; and for the wounded family that must heal by God's grace; and for the suffering in mind and body. How can we Not pray? How can we Not pay attention to what is going on around us?

I am not sure what is left for me this Lent; but I have a willing heart and I pray dear Lord that I do not get in your way.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our Lady of Lourdes

Lourdes, France...

Before getting to the Grotto, where a beautiful statue of Mary is inset into the mountain at the spot where Bernadette obediently followed "the lady's" request to dig for water; you have this beautiful image of a most fantastic, a Holy place. And as you walk towards this place a gentle "peace" comes to you. Rests on you.

Today, I am searching for that same peace, praying for 2 dear friends of mine with cancer. Praying that "the beautiful Lady", the "Immaculate Conception" will intercede on their behalf and request that her Son bestow on them a peaceful and gentle spirit, and if it is God's will a miraculous healing.

I cannot recount the story of Bernadette and her visions anywhere near as beautiful as others can; I just want to help remind you of the peace and power of prayer. May the "gentle healer", God's own begotten Son, hear all of our prayers, and may Our Lady of Lourdes remind us to believe, and pray without ceasing. May we always be obedient to that request.

O Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Mother of Mercy,
you are the refuge of sinners,
the health of the sick,
and the comfort of the afflicted.
You know my wants,
my troubles, my sufferings.
By your appearance at the Grotto of Lourdes
you made it a privileged sanctuary
where your favors are given to people
streaming to it from the whole world.
Over the years countless sufferers
have obtained the cure for their infirmities -
whether of soul, mind, or body.
Therefore I come to you
with limitless confidence
to implore your motherly intercession.
Obtain, O loving Mother,
the grant of my requests.
Through gratitude for Your favors,
I will endeavor to imitate Your virtues,
that I may one day share in Your glory.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mercy is... for everyone

I love this narration on Mercy is/The Lord is kind and merciful... ! It is a very simple sentence, yet says really what our Lord's message of mercy is all about. This is why I had my youngest narrate this one sentence - it really takes a "childlike" attitude to really embrace these words. Throughout the years it is so interesting how the more we understand hurt, and opinion, and passion of our own ideas; the less open we are to sharing those ideas, or perhaps opening the door a glimpse for dialogue to happen.

This is a week of prayer for Christian unity. It's interesting living in the south, because I don't necessarily find it difficult to talk about faith here. In fact practically everywhere I go, from the grocery or post office, to a Dr.'s office; you can wish someone a "blessed day", and they don't look crazy at you. In fact, it is not unlikely to be approached with some kind of smile, or reference to our Lord and Savior, as I am walking to my car with the man at Publix. (They take your groceries and load them for you, no charge!)

However, the other side to that coin is the misconceptions that can arise from other denominations, and the other side to that dialogue...oh, your Catholic,...? Some think we are destined for hell if we not "really" baptized in their faith. I am happy to say though, that in most cases, this does not happen, and as Christian brothers and sisters of any denomination we share a true love for Christ, and His teachings; and I praise God for that.

Rather than get into an ecumenical debate however, my thoughts today have to do with sharing a simple prayer. When recording the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I knew that it is a devotion, or meditative prayer, known largely in the Catholic faith. One that I have found much comfort in, many times over. I did not really think of it reaching interest beyond our faith.

Then one day while praying the chaplet, I realized how "ecumenical" it really is. It is a prayer uniting everyone on the same need of God's ocean of mercy. Of course this is the case! Just as the Creed is recited in many denominations, and the Our Father is universal as well, a prayer asking for mercy for "the whole world" is completely non-exclusive:

" for the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."

Now, I have shared the CD with many christian friends, catholic and protestant alike, and many people of other denominations speak of the beauty of the Chaplet. In fact, one woman from our church purchased one to share with her brother, a minister of a protestant church. He shared with her how beautiful he felt it was, and was going to share it with his church I think at a prayer service.

So, I guess, we must look at our prayers sometimes with a childlike trust in God, and what He will do with those petitions. As adults, we may think with limitations, but God has no boundaries. Christian unity is possible, we just can't put "human" limits, or water it down so that there is no definition to it either. I do pray for Christian unity, that hearts will be opened up to an understanding of faiths, so that dialogue can happen, through the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Just my own thought on ecumenism. "Mercy is...for everyone."

Friday, January 8, 2010

got GRACE?

The other day, I had the word Grace in my thoughts. It followed me throughout my morning, and stayed with me as I was preparing for Mass. I kept thinking about how beautifully Mary was greeted in (Lk 1:28) Hail Mary, “Full of Grace”. Then, remembering the “fullness” of my humanity I thought, wow, if only…

I had my journal next to me and I wrote:

*filled with Grace


Love like you are*
Pray like you are*
Be humble as if you are*…

I understand all too well the difference between “Mary” the Mother of God, – of course she was filled with Grace – and myself; a forty something house mom of 3 from Georgia who gets overwhelmed by the simplest task. So why was I considering the thought that we could live, love, or even pray as though we are filled with Grace? In fact, the next words, “the Lord is with thee” sheds the light on that truth, reminding us that Mary, being human, is “full of grace” (because) “the Lord is with” her. She was chosen by God to carry His Son. Ok then, I am nowhere near being “full of grace”. So, where am I? ½ way full? 1/3? 1/8?

I’m obviously not talking of the Grace that we say before we eat our meals, or a little extra time to pay off my Visa, no I’m talking of that supernatural sanctifying grace which the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as:

The free gift of God establishing the soul in the way of justification and
holiness. Its intimate nature is beyond mere human analysis, but judging by its
effects, we are justified in regarding it as a physical adornment of the soul,
permanent in its essence, incompatible with grievous sin, recreating the soul as
a new nature competent to act supernaturally and meritoriously. It is habitual
grace regarded under one aspect - the real interior sanctification which
enriches the soul and makes it permanently holy in the sight of God.

Then it dawned on me, Grace is bestowed on each and every one of us; it is a gift right? Here is where I openly admit to a very basic non-scholarly, theological understanding. Particularly when I am discussing something that is “beyond mere human analysis”. But, I imagine perhaps to fully receive and participate in that grace, we have to acknowledge its presence.

There are so many opportunities we have to experience that grace, the Sacraments for example. But, if we settle on a fraction of the “fullness” of grace that Mary was, then we might never see “full”. So, here is what I am thinking, I am nowhere near being “Immaculate” as Mary was, but can’t I continue to “fill up” when I fall? If the Sacraments are an outward sign of the God’s grace, and sanctifying grace is an interior sanctification that is making the soul holy in the sight of God, then I must also need to acknowledge that grace to some extent. I know it doesn’t stop – but do we? The precious blood of Christ continues to fall upon us – yet, if we do not take the time to go to mass, or receive the sacraments, or even spend time in prayer and acknowledge that indeed we need His grace to flow on us – will it? No doubt, it’s there, but don't we need to live in it?

As an example, if I am a vessel of some kind, empty, then I go to the source to add “life” to it – in this case Grace. If I choose to receive a bit and feel better knowing that I have received Grace – is that enough to “live” in that grace? How can I share that grace with others if there is “just enough”. I have caught myself thinking, “I really don’t want to continue asking for grace – “but, in truth there is an infinite amount to go around. So, today I have a thought that if I continue acknowledging, really “knowing”, that grace – then it will continue “filling up” in an ongoing basis – spilling over – flowing freely to others.

Lord, may I find the humility to acknowledge your Grace; that I might know and live in Your grace, and share it continually through love with others. Amen