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St. Teresa is Following Me

I recently read a book that had been gifted to me, “The Kiss of Jesus: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me to Discover the Beauty of the Cross,” by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.

What a beautiful book!  I confess, I read it over the course of only two days.  I have precious little time to read, but since we’ve been on Christmas break this past week, I allowed myself to “waste” some time and just, be.  I’ve been playing cards with the kids and just hanging out around the house.  It’s been glorious!  Someone in one of my Facebook groups sent me the book several weeks ago, and it had been waiting very patiently on my end table.  This seemed like the perfect time to check it out.

St. Teresa of Calcutta has been following me around lately.  Since her recent canonization, of course she’s been in the news and there have been numerous books, videos, and publications made of her life, but I’ve experienced something a little more personal.  Like so many others, I’ve always admired Mother Teresa, but since hearing about the many years she spent in spiritual darkness, I have been more intrigued than ever with her story.  Several years ago a religious ed teacher loaned one of my sons a beautiful biography of Mother Teresa’s life, and I treasured the time I spent reading through it with him.  I’ve thought about Mother Teresa frequently since then and have made mental notes to read more about her . . . eventually.

Several months ago, I found a St. Teresa of Calcutta medal laying on one of our chairs.  Upon making inquiries, I discovered that it was one of several medals that my daughter brought home from a recent trip to a Missionaries of Charity community, where she went with our parish youth group to celebrate Mother’s canonization.  I returned the medal to her, but several days later, it (or another one) appeared in my bedroom – on the floor!  I picked it up, said, “OK, Mother, I get the message,” and added it to the Crucifix pendant I always wear.

Then, a month or so ago, someone on one of my Facebook groups said she would send Donna-Marie’s book to whoever commented first on her post.  I commented – not with the intention of being sent the book! – but just to say it sounded like a really good book and that it was on my reading list.  Well, of course, the poster honored her promise and a short time later I received a message from her asking for my address!   Less than two weeks later, just as Advent was getting underway, the book arrived.  I put it on my pile of things, “To Look at Later,” and there it stayed until this past week.

What a treasure!  How lucky and blessed Donna-Marie is to have such wonderful memories of Mother Teresa.  And how lucky and blessed we all are to have such a beautiful sister in Christ who was willing to lay bare all the difficulties and challenges of her life, all her missteps and wanderings, and all of her joys and blessings.  It takes great courage to share one’s life with the world, never knowing how you will be received. But Donna-Marie does it in this book, and does it with grace, frankness, and even some humor.  It was like sitting down to coffee with a friend and sharing our stories.

I was touched by so many things in this book.  It got me wandering down the paths of my  past and thinking about my own story – also full of wanderings, missteps, challenges, and – yes – joy.  I truly believe I have found joy, not in spite of, but because of, the challenges we have faced.   I realized, as I read, “The Kiss of Jesus,” that I also have a story to share, and I hope that, someday, I too am privileged to share my story with others.  We are in the world to be a gift to others.  When we share our stories, we have the opportunity to share lessons we have learned, provide guidance, and even share our faith, but most importantly, we have the opportunity to give hope.  Sometimes, when someone is drowning in a crisis and feeling like a failure, the most important thing we can give them is the hope that everything will turn out ok, that God is there, with them in their crisis, that someone else has been down that same road, and not just survived, but thrived!

Many blessings to all of you in the new year!  May it be full, rich, and very, very boring.  (Anyone who has had one too many “exciting,” times, will know what I mean and know to appreciate things being, “boring.”)

Peace and God bless!

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Posted by on January 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Be still, Pray, and Have Hope (pt 3) – Putting it all together

Imagine it is, 1917, and you live in Portugal, somewhere near a little town called Fatima.  You’ve been hearing rumors of something strange happening there – three shepherd children who claim to see visions of the Blessed Mother.  They say that they’ve seen her every month since May of that year.  The officials, and even one of the girl’s parents, don’t believe any of it and think the children are lying.  And yet . . . . what if they aren’t?

The children say that the Blessed Mother promised a miracle the next time she appears – on Oct. 13.  Part of you doesn’t want any part of it – no sense borrowing trouble or getting mixed up with a bunch of lunatics who believe everything they hear.  But the other part of you . . . . can’t help wonder . . .  and hope . . . what if?  What if she really is appearing to these children?  What if God really is reaching out to us and has something important to tell us?  What if?

That’s where we are now.  If you were in Fatima, on Oct. 13, 1917, what would you have done?  Would you have gone to the Cova?  Even if it was just out of curiosity, would you have gone out to the field to see the miracle that was promised?

“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:36

How watchful are you?  We spend our days running on autopilot, never stopping to look at the sunrise, the flowers, or just sitting and looking at the stars, but then, when something happens, or when we need to make a big decision, what is the first thing we say?  “God! Send me a sign!!”  How many signs does he send us, and we don’t even pay attention?

Many of you have heard of Fatima and the appearance of the Blessed Mother to the shepherd children in 1917.  If you haven’t, it’s worth your time to read about it, or watch the movie, The 13th Day.  Next year, on Oct. 13, 2017, it will be exactly 100 years since the Miracle of the Sun occurred in Fatima.  It had been raining all day and the huge crowd of people (over 30,000 at the lowest estimate) were drenched, standing in the mud.  When the children arrived, they told everyone to put their umbrellas away.  The crowd complied and, shortly after, the sun came out from behind the clouds and appeared to start spinning in the sky!  It spun, “danced,” and then plunged toward the earth!

The stunned crowd looked on in silence.  A moment later, the sun returned to it’s normal position in the sky and stood still once again.  As the people looked about them, they realized that they were dry.  Completely dry!  And the ground, moments before saturated and muddy, was also dry.  In addition, the Miracle of the Sun, was reported up to 40 km away from Fatima, and covered in local newspapers.

The people who braved the rain, and the scorn of their friends and neighbors that day in 1917, didn’t know what they were going to see.  All they knew was that there would be a miracle; that God was going to show them something – and that something, gave them hope.

We don’t know what the next year is going to bring. It might be a scary time, and we might see some horrible things, things we never expected to live through  . . . or maybe not!  I believe though, that God is trying to tell us something.  Are we being watchful?  Are we paying attention?  More importantly, are we living each and every day in accordance with God’s will for our lives?

We have the total eclipse in August, 2017, the constellation of Virgo, crowned with 12 stars like the  Woman of Revelation, in September, and the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, in October.  Like I said at the beginning of this series – I think this is going to be a very interesting year!

Do not be afraid.  We are His people and He is our God!   He has a plan, He is with us now and always, and He is showing us His great love and tender mercy.  Be at peace.  Be still, pray, and have hope.

See you after the election!

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Be Still, Pray, and Have Hope (pt. 2) – Signs in the Heavens

Be Still, Pray, and Have Hope (pt. 2) – Signs in the Heavens

In my previous post, I alluded to signs and events that will be happening during the next year.  I want to repeat – I am no prophet and don’t claim to have any special knowledge.  Through various articles and blog posts, I have heard about these things and am simply “connecting the dots.”

I share these things with you because I am saddened and deeply troubled by what I see around me.  So many people seem so upset – in a panic, almost – over the upcoming election and what will happen afterwards.  We have to keep our eyes and hearts on God!!   He has a plan and I believe that He is giving us signs, reminding us that He is with us and that everything will be ok.

What are these signs?  I’m so glad you asked!  Let’s get started!

The first date to take note of is, Nov. 20, 2016.  On that date, in just a few short weeks, several things happen.  First, it is Christ the King Sunday, the feast day on which Catholics honor Christ as our King, Lord of the Universe.  Second, it marks the close of the Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis last year.

Third – and this is the big one – on this day, the planet Jupiter (also known as the “king planet”),  will enter the constellation, Virgo, “the virgin.”  Jupiter will remain in Virgo for 9 1/2 months, exiting on Sept. 23, 2017.  On that date, the sun will rise directly behind Virgo, the moon will beat her feet, and above her head will be the 9 stars of the constellation, Leo, along with Mercury, Venus, and Mars, making a crown, of 12, “stars.”

If none of this sounds familiar to you yet, check out the book of Revelation, chapter 12: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.”

“So what?” you may be asking, “What does it mean?”  Obviously, we don’t know exactly what it means.  What we do know though, is that Revelation describes visions seen by John, describing the end of the age and the second coming of Christ.  John’s vision of the woman crowned with twelve stars has numerous interpretations.  Like all visions and prophesies, they are often recognized in hindsight.  We won’t necessarily know what it means until after it happens.  That doesn’t mean though, that we should ignore the clear parallels between the vision in Revelation and what will be happening in the stars this year.

I feel like I should clarify, I am not talking about astrology – something strictly condemned by the Catholic Church.  Rather, just like the wise men who took note of the star in Bethlehem, 2,000 years ago – God occasionally sends messages to us through His creation, including the stars.  We are not using the stars to tell the future.  We are simply recognizing the possibility that God is using the stars to tell us something important in a direct way.

So, we have potential signs in the stars this year, but that is not all.  Our next date of note is, Aug. 21, 2017.  This is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Knock.  You can read about the miraculous occurrences in Knock, Ireland here.  On that day, the United States will experience a total solar eclipse.  This will be the first total eclipse to go directly across the entire continent in 99 years.

Again, we can ask ourselves – What does it mean?  Why does it matter?  Couldn’t it just be a cool thing to watch?  Sure it could.  Maybe it will be.  Maybe it doesn’t mean anything.  But . . . . what if it does?

I’ll leave you with that for today.  Let’s all think and pray on this information.  We don’t know what any of it means, but the more we learn, it seems like it has to mean something.  For now, God bless you and keep you, and God’s will be done.

 

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Be Still, Pray, and Have Hope (Part 1)

Be Still, Pray, and Have Hope (Part 1)

My heart aches these days.  Every time I go on social media I see posts from people I know – good, honest people with strong faith – in a near panic over the future.  “We HAVE to vote this way – it’s our only hope!”   “But  you don’t understand – we have to think about the Supreme Court!!”  “Our lives are at stake if she wins!”

 

It hurts me so to see people so upset and anxious.  This is not how God wants us to live.  He wants us to be at peace, to have joy, to trust in Him, not some candidate or political party.  He wants us to have HOPE.  As Christians, we need to carry in our heart the hope that comes with knowing God is always with us and always has a plan.  Even if things get dark and ugly – which they may – if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can be assured that things will work out according to God’s Holy Will.

So now, you may be asking  yourself, “What makes her so sure?  I know we’re supposed to trust God, but shouldn’t we be doing something?”  Well, as a matter of fact, yes, we should be doing something – we should be praying, we should be living our faith, and we should be doing just what the Bible says – being watchful and always ready for what is to come.  Spend some time with Luke 21, and you’ll get the idea.  ;o)

Before I say anything more, I want to clarify.  I am no prophet.  I don’t claim to have any special knowledge or understanding, I haven’t seen or heard any heavenly messages, and I don’t claim to know what is going to happen.  That said, however, I have come to believe that the next year is going to be very interesting.

The last several months, I’ve heard about various things that will be occurring over the next year.  All I’ve done is connect the dots.   Throughout all of history, God has spoken to us through signs.  Why would He stop now?  It is reasonable to assume that He is still giving us messages today.  The question is, are we paying attention?

Over the next several blog posts, I will share with you what I have observed.  I promise you, there is good reason to hope.  We don’t have to be afraid and we don’t have to panic.  God has got this!  Even though things may get very difficult, He has a plan and we don’t ever have to worry.  Rest in Him and He will give you peace.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Aquinas, Immigration, and Apple Pie

After a bit of a hiatus from blogging, I decided to give it another go.   I came across an article today that gave me some things to think about.  The article was titled, “What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration.”  Now, I’ve heard a lot of opinions about immigration, but to think that St. Thomas Aquinas himself might weigh on the question was intriguing.  Unfortunately, while the author raises a few points worth mentioning, it is, overall, an attempt to take the great theologian’s words, and fit them into the box of conservative politics.  I offer my response.

I think what makes things particularly challenging in the US, is that we are a nation of immigrants.  We don’t have the same national identity that countries had over the rest of history.  The people who lived within the Roman Empire retained their communities, even once they became Roman citizens.  Samaritans, Babylonians, Jews stayed within their districts, Christian communities sprang up as the Apostles spread the Word around the Mediterranean and beyond.  In Europe, people tended to be nationalistic and their identities were strongly tied to their country of origin – Poles, French, Spanish, etc.

In the US though, we have always been a mixture and, historically, welcomed immigrants openly – even encouraged them to come.  We can say we have a common American identity, but it’s pretty subjective.  There’s the obvious stereotype of, “Hot dogs, apple pie, and baseball,” but is that really what we are as Americans?  And how many of us would agree with that?  We have the Constitution and it’s guarantees of freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and religious liberty, but honestly, I see those things being threatened by the laws and social pressures of our own government more than anything else.  Those ideas only worked when the country was pretty homogeneous at it’s founding, and even then they didn’t really mean it – they only meant the people who were like them.  It didn’t include the blacks slaves, the Catholics, and anyone else who didn’t meet their criteria.

The two main points of this article, in regards to immigration, are the importance of the nation’s unity, and the nation’s common good.  If we look at the US as it has been and as it is now, are we united?  Have we ever been?  In my experience, we seem to be a whole bunch of different groups of people, with very different beliefs, cultures, and traditions, co-existing with each other.  While there are small degrees of integration, at the risk of sounding cynical, but we are still pretty divided.  It’s not the same as it once was; we don’t identify as Poles, German, Irish, etc., but even though we have different labels, the labels remain.  I question how we, being the country which has always, from the beginning, welcomed everyone to her borders, can now decide that adding more immigrants will somehow affect our unity.
To consider our common good, I have something anecdotal to share.  The other day, I drove past one of our local Taco Bell restaurants at about 3 in the afternoon.  Their sign up front read, “Now Hiring,” but I couldn’t help but notice more signs hanging all over their drive through menu and speakers.  I strained to read the signs: “No Staff. Closed for the day.  Sorry.”  This is not the first time I’ve heard of this; businesses without enough employees to stay open.  So even here, where we have masses of immigrants, we still don’t have people to work?  Obviously there are always people out there who are capable but aren’t willing to work, but if there are people who want to come to our country to work, don’t we want them?  With the lowest birth rate in recorded history this past year, we better at least consider it.
I think what it really is, is that people don’t like the idea of our country changing.  We don’t like the idea of the US no longer being what we think it should be, or what we remember seeing in our little 1950s picture books (that’s when America was great, right?).  We don’t like the idea of America becoming primarily Mexican, or Muslim, or any other group.  We want it to stay with what we are comfortable with, what we know, what we remember from our youth and look back on fondly, with fuzzy, idealistic reminiscence.
This gentlemen does have some semi-good things to offer, but I’m not sure how helpful it actually is.  When you consider that we’re only discussing this because our government invaded and took the land from people who were already living here – each with their own national identities, cultures, and traditions – we’re in a funny position to be saying much at all.  The make up of the people living on this piece of land we currently call the United States, has changed dramatically over the years.  To sit here and demand that it stop changing and stay just the way we want it, seems a little unrealistic.  Yes, we have a valid interest in protecting ourselves, maintaining order, and having safe communities, but I think that is a different question.  Much to ponder and much to pray over.
 
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Posted by on September 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Confessions, Book 1, Chap. 11

Confessions, Book 1, Chap. 11

As we read today’s passage from Confessions, we realize that Augustine was not baptized as a child.  That seems startling to us, especially since He believed in God and Christ’s dying to save us from our sins.  In the fourth century, however, the people were more afraid of sinning after baptism than they were of dying without it and so, it was common practice to postpone baptism until immediately before death.

Augustine laments the decision to postpone his baptism, recognizing that baptism would have cleansed him and, perhaps, kept him from suffering the many temptations that plagued him in his youth.  It is clear that Augustine deeply regretted the sinful life he lead in the years before his conversion.  I think, however, that this speaks again of what I wrote previously – God takes even our worst moments in life and uses them for the advancement of His glory.

Did God want Augustine to sin?  Did God purposely cause Augustine to sin in order to use him as an example?  No, but God did know that Augustine was going to fall into sin.  Augustine had free will and willingly made the choice to sin throughout his youth.  God does not interfere with our choices to sin, but He allows it to happen and then brings good out of it.  In the case of Augustine, when he finally converted and repented of his sin, God gave him the grace and ability to bring others to repentance not in spite of his sin, but because of it.  Here we are today, almost 2000 years later, learning how to be a good follower of Christ, because this man defied his elders and lived a life of rampant sin.  Imagine what could have happened if he had never strayed, never led that wild life of sin and promiscuity.  Augustine may have lived in obscurity and died quietly in his bed of old age, never to be thought of again beyond his immediate family!

In our own lives, we are going to make mistakes; we have probably already made quite a few!  But if we look with the eyes of faith, and ask God to show us, we should be able to see many examples of places we are now and good things that have happened to us, because of sinful decisions from our past.  Maybe it is knowledge or wisdom that we gained, maybe it is a chance encounter that ended up having lasting effects, maybe it is something that became a milestone moment that affected the entire course of our lives.  Whatever it is, we have to be thankful for those occasions of sin, those moments of temptation.  We are what we are today, not in spite of those times, but because of them and to change them, could change our entire life.

As a boy, then, I had heard of eternal life promised us through the humility of the Lord our God stooping to our pride.  Even from the womb of my mother, who greatly hoped in you, I was signed with the mark of His cross and seasoned with His salt.  You saw, Lord, how at one time while yet a boy I was suddenly seized with pains in the stomach and was near death.  You saw, my God, for You were my Keeper, with what eagerness of mind and with what faith I besought the baptism of Your Christ, my God and Lord, from the piety of my own mother and of Your Church, the mother of us all.  At this time, my mother was very anxious, since she labored more lovingly in travail from my salvation than in my natural birth.  She would have provided for my cleansing initiation by Your health-giving sacraments, confessing You, Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, if I had not suddenly recovered.  And so, as if I must needs be further polluted if I should live, my cleansing was deferred because the defilements of sin would bring greater and more perilous guilt after that washing.  I already believed at that time, with my mother and the whole household except  my father.  Yet he did not overcome the power of my mother’s piety in me so as to prevent my believing in Christ.  The fact that he did not yet believe did not make me think that I should not.  For it was her earnest concern that You, my God, should be my Father rather than he.  In this You enabled her to overcome her husband to whom, though the better of the two, she yielded obedience because in this she obeyed Your commandment as well.

I beseech You, my God, for I would like to know if it is Your will, for what purpose was my baptism then deferred?  Was it for my good that the reins were loosed on me, as it were, for me to sin? Or were they not slackened at all?  If not, why does it still echo in my ears on all sides, “Let him alone, let him do as he will, for he is not yet baptized”?  But as to bodily health, no one says, “Let him be wounded even more seriously, for he is not yet healed.”  How much better then, would it have been for me to have been healed at once and then, by my friends’ diligence and my own, my soul’s recovered health had then been kept safe in Your keeping who gave it!  Better truly.  But how many great waves of temptation seemed to hang over me after my childhood!  My mother foresaw these and preferred to expose the unformed [unrengenerate] clay to them rather than to the very image itself after it was made.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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