Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Renew

My word for the year is "renew."  There are so many ways that word applies to my life from my job as a librarian, to my marriage and family, to my life as a Christian.  For about the past 2 years I have been through some stuff.  I have to confess that in the beginning of the trials I relied on the Lord and felt faith and confidence that I was in God's hands and everything would work out according to God's best plan for my life.

But, as time wore on and things got worse I began to think that maybe God was telling me something and I wasn't listening.  Maybe my life was off track.  Maybe I was supposed to make some changes because my life had become a mess. I spent a lot of time worried and crying and generally upset.  All of that great Christian faith, hope and trust I had relied on all of my life didn't seem consoling to me when faced with the challenges that I was faced with. I was worn out.

I go for spiritual direction once a month.  My director didn't see my life as off track.  She saw challenges and she encouraged me that God was calling me to growth.  Grow closer to Christ by uniting my sufferings with His on the Cross.  And she prayed for me and with me.  We discussed various options I might have, but she never told me what to do. We discussed that fact that even in the hard times God was expressing His infinite love for me. And I went to Reconciliation, even though sometimes I didn't want to because I didn't know what to say.  But, I always found grace and mercy there in the Confessional.

Things in my life have gotten a lot better in the past weeks, maybe the past couple of months, and I am starting to feel better.  I am starting to regain that confidence I had that God is with me and things will only go according to His plan for my life.  I am taking on a formation role again with an upcoming women's retreat at my parish.  But, I can't say that things are the same as they were two years ago before all of this started.  I have grown.  I have learned things about myself and others. I have much greater empathy than I ever could have before with people who are experiencing things that they have no control over.

With this new year I recognize the need to renew, to make new my faith, my trust, my hope in God.  I need to renew with a new a deeper understanding of suffering and God's sacrifice and love for me and for all of us. I don't want back what I had, I want a new and deeper faith. Faith is a mystery because we can always go deeper into the mystery.  As I renew my journey in faith, I will hope in Him.

Lamentations 3:22-24 "The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent. The are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him."

Contributed by Mary at Hope Echoes

Monday, January 30, 2012

Quick Bytes #15: An Epiphany Meme?

(This was originally posted on my blog yesterday, but thought it would be inspiring if readers posted their answers here too.)


I'm sometimes saddened that the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord gets lost in all the post-Christmas hangover


Heck, even this post is three weeks late.

But as someone, somewhere once said, late is better than never.  So here goes ...

As most of you probably know, there are three Epiphanies that we celebrate on that feast day, and each serves as a powerful moment in time when Christ's Divinity is revealed to mankind.

  • The visit of the Magi
  • The baptism in the Jordan
  • The miracle at Cana

As I spent time reflecting on the power of each of those this month, I kept asking myself one question ... which would I go back to see live, if I could?


After weeks of debating, I know my answer.  But I'd love to hear yours.  


Would you choose to watch the Magi lay their eyes on the Baby for the first time?  To see the expression on their faces when their interpretation was proven correct?  To know how long they stayed, what they said, and how many of them there actually were?  Or maybe just to see what the whole scene looked like and what was going on around them?


Or would you choose to be there when John baptized our Savior?  To see what it looked like when the Heavens opened up?  To hear God's voice boom down to His Son?    Or perhaps just to see how many others were on hand to witness the event and how they reacted?


What about the wedding at Cana?  Would you elect to be there to see Christ's first public miracle?  To see how hard his knowing Mother nudged Him?  To watch the expression on the servant's face?  Or maybe just to see Jesus having fun at a celebration with His friends?


Post your answer in the comments section, and I'll do the same next week.  In the meantime, feel free to pass along this question.   There are no "rules" to this meme ... just have everyone post their answers in the comments section here (or at my blog) so we can read them all and have some fun reflecting on the Glory of our Lord.  


God Bless.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

FREE E BOOK

Theodore Luxton-Joyce is a lovable English eccentric from Scottish descent who lives in a world of his own. His every thought and action are motivated by genuine kindness and generosity, yet although he gives the impression that he doesn’t think things through properly, the reality is that he thinks them through all right but he does so somewhat late, with humorous consequences for those around him.

This book contains a selection of short stories about Theodore Luxton-Joyce, a man born at a time when the world was a different place altogether. 

You can download this E Book FREE from HERE.

Also on AMAZON Kindle HERE.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Perfect Prayer

Our retreat master last weekend told us that the Mass was the perfect prayer. Amen. And it got me to thinking how much I miss going to daily Mass.
I used to go everyday when my boys were young. I would bring them to Mass and then to school and then I would go back to church to work in the parish office.
Now I am an empty-nester but we moved about 40 minutes away from our church. Mass is at 7 am and I work 10-hour days. And I spend a lot of my time off, writing and sharing about prayer and faith and Catholic spirituality.
So my days are long and I get tired. Eventually I got out of the “habit” of going to daily Mass and would only go occasionally, probably out of a feeling of guilt.
Then last weekend Father told me God wants ME. God wants me more than He wants my writing and my ministry.
God wants my attention. My presence.
My heart.
And so, back home on Monday, I got up early and I went to Mass. And I felt such joy and at peace about being back to daily Mass.
Tuesday, I went to Mass.
Wednesday, I had a doctor’s appointment and I was so disappointed that I had to miss Mass. I found myself looking forward to Thursday morning.
And that was when I knew.
I was not going out of some kind of guilt or fear. I was going out of need for God. And for love.
Love for Jesus. Love for the Eucharist. Love for this God who has given me so much.
And love for the Mass. The perfect prayer.
I do not know how long this will last. A few weeks. A month? Through Lent? Indefinitely?
I do not know. I just know that God is good. And God wants me, not what I do. And so here I am.
Back to daily Mass.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Family Calendar by Arma Dei & Giveaway

Monica from Equipping Catholic Families and Arma Dei generously gave me a free copy of her Family Calendar to review.  She offers two options, you receive both the black & white for the coloring pleasure of your children and fully colored.  I printed the one which is fully colored and I three hole punched it and placed it in a report folder with a clear front page.

Very colorful front page in my report folder.
Note the focus of the month and important feast dates.
 If you want to stay on track with the liturgical calendar, this is a must have.  Each page informs you of the focus of the month.  For example, January is the Month of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. February is the Month of the Passion of the Lord...etc.  She also has left space to write special dates among the already listed popular  feast days of the month.  You will also find special notes on each month with dates to remember.
Lists all the feast and holy days of each month.
The last two pages of the calendar has a comprehensive list of all the feast days each month.  It's a great way to become familiar with saints and holy days each month.  So much information in her calendar!  I love it because it's all in one place at a glance.  Previously, I've been googling the liturgical calendar to learn of dates and feast days and now I don't have to.   This calendar is a great resource for teachers and moms who wish to raise their children in the Catholic Faith.

All of Monica's products are so vibrantly colored, easy to use and informative.  If you're not familiar with her work, you should head on over there right now!  In fact, she is hosting a giveaway of her Catholic Bilingual Bingo Game.  It's easy to enter her giveaway at Equipping Catholic Families
She's a blessing to us all!

Blessings,
Noreen

Monday, January 23, 2012

Catholic Bloggers Network

Yesterday I was doing my usual visiting of various blogs participating in the Sunday Snippets weekly roundup hosted by RAnn at This That and the Other Thing when I found a link to the Catholic Bloggers Network.

The Community of Catholic Bloggers exists to encourage one another in practicing our faith so I'm posting about this web site. It's a great place to find many other Catholic bloggers in one location and I'm sure that many writers and readers of our blog here will want to join and participate in the various categories they offer.
Catholic Bloggers Network

Spread the good news of Christ far and wide!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quick Bytes #14: This Is Not Where We Belong

"For the world, in its present form, is passing away."
                                                                                  (1 Cor 7:31)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Invitation from Jesus

Today's meditation from Divine Intimacy had the following words:

Among the perfections of God which Jesus has revealed, charity has first place. It is so important that, when He asks us to imitate God, His first requirement is an intense practice of charity toward God and our neighbor.

The precept of charity, like that of striving for perfection, has no limits: however much we love God, we shall never succeed in loving Him as much as He is capable of being loved, that is, as much as He deserves; and however much we love our neighbor, we shall never love him as God loves him.
Jesus thus invites us to rise to perfection, to a holiness which has no limits and which requires of us a continual advancement, progress and ascension. Although we always do little, a mere nothing compared with so lofty an ideal, Our Lord is satisfied with this little, provided we put all our good will into it.
Another affirmation of Jesus being satisfied with the smallest inclination of our feeble wills toward His own. Then He pours out His grace on us to bring us even closer to Him.

I was wowed by the thought that I can never love my neighbor as God loves him, nor can I know him as God knows him. This makes me think about never judging others but only willing God's graces for them.

St. Augustine says regarding the divine perfection Jesus invites us to, "Strive for it untiringly and uninterruptedly."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Donning the Mantilla

Much controversy surrounds this beautiful act of humility before the Lord; this age-old custom/tradition of our faith. Many claim that the Church mandates the covering of a woman's head when entering the presence of God in His Tabernacle. They say that "Vatican II" did not "do away with" the teaching...the "mandate" and that all who do not wear the mantilla (veil) are in disobedience to the Church.


This post is not about the validity or lack thereof of such argument/debate/opinion/accusations.

This post is about another topic: Pride.

I've been pondering this whole thing lately because a dear friend of mine, whose family DOES wear the mantilla, has started her own online business where she is selling lovely handmade ones in a personal effort to restore this humble devotion in the Church community.

When I was a child (and, having been born in 1964, I am a *post* Vatican II child, but nonetheless) the mantilla was still commonly worn at Mass. I LOVED it. What little girl doesn't enjoy placing a veil atop her head?

In fact, when we were young and played "Church" or "Nun" as we often did, we used anything we could get our hands on to become a veil...bath towels, dish towels, sheets, blankets...you name it, we tried it.

I have been asking myself why I haven't encouraged my girls to return to this custom?

I have shamefully decided that the answer is "pride" (and  a tad bit of a lack of courage).

My "good" motivation in raising godly children has always been to try to inculcate the idea that we are not to attract attention to "ourselves" but rather, to CHRIST, within us...mainly through our example of godly-living and Christian JOY. This has always been my answer to "But what exactly is WRONG with blue hair, Mom?"
It is "wrong" because it draws attention to "us" instead of to CHRIST, within us. (That was a general example to make a general point...not meant to evoke a debate on hair style choices and/or color).


Continuing in that line of thought...I have hesitated to return to donning a mantilla because we have been without one for so long (none of my girls have ever worn it) that I fear that if we suddenly start showing up at Mass with veils on our heads...it WILL draw attention...and I don't want that! (Several families in our parish DO wear the mantilla).

However, I hang my head as I type this...because I realize that even THIS is "pride". It is a lack of courage, as well...

Should I not be willing to have a few looks thrown our way...a few whispers here or there...a few questions or comments after Mass...if, in my heart, I feel that this truly is a lovely act of humility and devotion to bow before the Lord and "cover" ourselves in His presence?

My pride always makes me worry about "what others think". I wouldn't want someone to think we were just wearing veils to be "part of a holy crowd". Believe me, I have heard MANY awful things said (EVEN BY CLERGY) about those who don the mantilla; and have, on several occasions, risen to the defense of people who choose to show their humble devotion to the Lord in this way.

Do I fear such backlash?

Do I worry that some would "think" that I am trying to be "holier than thou".

(Although, as my friend has said...better *holier than thou* than *worldlier than thou*!)

My thoughts reach out to the wider congregation...as a whole.

Why won't ALL of us women return to this beautiful tradition/custom if we, in our hearts, believe that restoration is in order if we are to combat the ways of the world and rise up for Christ in an anti and post Christian society?

Why would we NOT want to take part in something so good, so lovely, so humble?

I am asking myself these things.

Part of my own, personal answer, I know...is that I don't wish to associate myself with that certain "sect" of people who actually DO claim that we are sinning NOT to wear a veil...that the NO Mass is not valid...that the current Pope and many Popes back to whomever are not valid, etc...Though this group is a minority in the Church...it DOES exist...and many of those who subscribe to these mindsets DO wear a mantilla...

So, again...PRIDE/LACK OF COURAGE...I, who do not wish to associate with that type of person, fear participation in this lovely act of devotion because someone "MIGHT THINK" that I "am ONE OF THEM".

Pride and lack of courage.

My girls would readily, eagerly, and wholeheartedly don a mantilla tomorrow if I handed them out and said, "Let's wear these as a sign of our humility and devotion before Christ's presence in the Tabernacle".

Perhaps, I will learn from my children...and do the same.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quick Bytes #13: Guides

In today's first reading, God is calling Samuel.  But Samuel does not hear Him until Eli explains what is going on.

In today's Gospel, Andrew sees a stranger walking by.  But it isn't until John the Baptist tells him that man is the Lamb of God that Andrew follows Jesus.

The truth is, we all need someone to help us follow God to the best of our abilities.  Maybe it is a priest.  Maybe a deacon. Or maybe it is just a group of Holy laypeople.

The trick is to find them and surround ourselves with them so we are always prepared to grow closer to our Lord.

God Bless.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A cry from the heart.


Father Francis Maple

This song by Father Francis has saved 20 babies from abortion.

LYRICS

Mommy keep me safe, mommy keep me warm

Handle me with care, mommy help me to form.

I am ten weeks old, and I know the time will come
when you will give birth to me.

The gift you gave to me are a pair of bright blue eyes
So some day I will see you smile and love me.

I've already got my arms and a little podgy nose,
And at the end of my feet I've got five little toes.

I look forward to my life, ice cream and slimy snails,
teddy bears and little fairy tales.

Going for walks in the park
Running home before it's dark.
And being tucked into bed with a kiss.

Where are we going today?
Am I in a boat or bus?

Why are we lying down?
Being drawn on four wheels?

And we go through the door
and there's people dressed in green.
Everything seems so strange and so clean.

Mommy if they hurt you just let out a scream
and I know someone will come to help you and me.

Mommy what's going on I am starting to cry
Come quickly they are forcing me to die.

They are killing me mommy, they are pulling me apart
My arms and my legs and now they're at my heart.

And I won't see the sky, or the grass or the trees.
and I won't see the moon, or feel the breeze.

I love you mommy dear, you know I really do
But I only wish you could have loved me too!

This pro-life song written by Father Francis Maple has saved at least 20 babies. Their mothers were considering abortion but changed their minds after hearing this song.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Just As I Am


"Just As I Am" is by Fernando Ortega off of his latest CD, "Come Down O Love Divine".  Fernando had performed this hymn as a young artist, but this was a new melody and arrangement for this his latest project.  The music and the lyrics are stunning and soul moving.  They also have a similarity to the words St. Therese chose in the longer version of her Offering to Merciful Love.

Fernando dedicated the song to Billy Graham and there is a section in the song when we hear briefly from Billy Graham.  Here are the lyrics:


I waited and waited for God

He turned and He heard me
He lifted me out of the mud
His own hand secured me
The Lord is my strength
I will not be confounded
So I have focused my face like a flint
I'll not be ashamed
Lord I come

Just as I am

Without one plea
But that Your blood
Was shed for me

Take the days that remain in my life

Lord, let me serve You
While there is breath on my lips
I would proclaim You
I long for Your return
I long to see You face to face
I long to join the eternal song
Communion of all the saints

Just as I am

Without one plea
But that Your blood
Was shed for me

From 
St. Therese's Offering to Merciful Love (long version)
Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love. . . . 

After earth's Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.

In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

We can only confess that Jesus is Lord (see 1 Corinthians 12:3) or call God, "Abba", Father (see Galatians 4:6) in the Holy Spirit.  Our faith itself, our confession of faith, our realization that Jesus is Lord, and through the shedding of his Precious Blood we have the Holy Spirit to teach us to call out Abba--Our Father, all of it is gift.  Lord, make us truly thankful!

We will show up empty handed just like St. Therese, Great Saint that she is!
We know we have nothing to boast of
that our hope of salvation came from God, Our Father, 
not sparing his only Son, 
and that Son in obedience and love
became incarnate of a woman, 
full of grace, conceived without sin because of God her Savior, 
and this Son, revealed his Father to us,
taught us to pray, Our Father, 
taught us how to love, how to show mercy and compassion, 
how to forgive, he suffered betrayal, humiliation, bodily and soul wrenching torment, 
and then laid his life down for us his friends, 
and every drop of his Precious Blood ran from his pierced side, His Sacred Heart.  Jesus, I do Trust in You.  Jesus I thank you that you thirst for me.  Increase my thirst, increase my love for you.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!"  And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen."  Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?"  I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  (Revelation 7:9-14)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Jesus Our Mediator


We're still in Christmastide and the Babe still opens His arms to us from the manger. In childlike confidence we can approach Him in the presence of Joseph and Mary and respond to His ineffable love for us by opening our arms to Him.

No matter how difficult our problems are, we are part of this Holy Family whose door is always open to us. With them there is always plenty of love, encouragement, and acceptance. No obstacle is too great when we place ourselves in their midst. No matter who rejects us, they are always there waiting for us to come in.

Michael asked in a previous post if we are closer to God now than we were at the beginning of 2011. What a great question it is and how fitting to contemplate the answer kneeling before the manger in the presence of the Holy Family. 2012 can be a great year spiritually for all of us if we consider deeply this passage from today's meditation in Divine Intimacy:
The grace which Adam had received directly from God, we now receive only through Jesus, our Mediator; our whole supernatural life always comes through Him. If we wish to be united to God, we have no other means than to attach ourselves to Jesus, to pass through Him, our Mediator, our Bridge, our Way. Jesus has said, "I am the way" (Jn.14:6); "I am the door. By Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (ibid. 10:9). Behold the only condition, the only way of salvation, of sanctity.
Let us always walk through the door who is Christ and live forever with the Holy Family.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Day Homily

New Year's Day Homily
By Father Francis Maple
I wish each one of you a very Happy and Holy New Year. Let us rejoice today because of the wonderful feast we keep, Mary Mother of God. Today our hearts should be bursting with joy. I shall say no more now for all will be revealed in the homily.

Today our hearts should jump with joy at the thought that at the very beginning of a New Year we are keeping the feast of Mary, Mother of God. I think the reason why the Church has done this is so very obvious. We know that God is everything, and that everything else compared to Him is nothing. But among that nothing there is someone who shines out brilliantly. That person is Mary. In her humility she was able to recognise this. "He looked upon the nothingness of His handmaid, from this day all generations will call me blessed."

We know that it was always the intention of God to be loved perfectly by one of His creatures. This could only come about if His Son was to take to Himself our human nature. That would mean that He would have to find a perfect mother. It would just not be fitting if even for a split second Satan should have any dominion over her. The person He chose was Mary, the girl from Nazareth. She was therefore conceived immaculate and also given the unique privilege of being sinless all her life.

Mary was not forced into making this commitment. God's plan depended upon Mary's choice. He sent one of His highest ranked angels, Gabriel, to reveal His plan that she had been chosen to be the mother of His Son. We must remember that Mary's love for God increased with every moment of her life. Because she loved God so much how could she ever contemplate of not fulfilling His plans? At the Annunciation I can just picture her bowing her head and joining her hands in reverence and saying with all the love in her heart, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let what you said be done to me."

From that moment she became the Mother of God. From that moment she became the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race. We can definitely say that when Jesus became Man He found Heaven in His mother Mary and that when He lived on this earth He was happiest when He was in her presence. We can express in wonder and love, "What a mother! What a lady!"

Mary always points the way to Jesus, never to her own glory. At the wedding feast of Cana, she told the servants, "Do whatever He tells you. It is significant that these should be the last recorded words of Mary in the Gospel. She continues to give the same message to us, "Do whatever He tells you".

Isn't it wonderful that we too can claim Mary as our mother? Jesus had done all He could for us. He gave us a Church in which we could find our salvation. He had given us the example of His life and His message was there in the Gospels. But as He hung on the Cross there was still one last treasure He had for us and that was His mother, when He said to us in the person of John, "Behold your Mother."

If only we could appreciate how much Mary loves us as a mother. When God wanted to tell us how much He loved us and how He would never desert us He used the image of a mother. "If a mother should forget the child of her womb, I shall never forget you."  Could Mary, our mother, ever forget anyone of us?

She has all the beautiful natural instincts our own mothers had for us. There have been times I have been in a home where there is a new born baby and the mother has heard her child crying in another room and I haven't heard a thing. The very cry can tell a mother whether it is a cry of hunger, discomfort or pain. I couldn't even hear the cry and if I did it would just be a cry calling for its mother's attention. We can always take our fears, our tears of unhappiness and pain to Mary, our mother, and she will comfort us, as no one else will.

No loving mother will ever forsake or abandon her child. I shall never forget that lovely story we witnessed on television some years back when there was that dreadful earthquake in Armenia. A mother and a daughter had been buried in the rubble for eight days. The rescuers had given up all hope of finding anyone alive. Yet, after that period, they dragged them alive from the rubble. The mother had kept her baby alive by cutting her finger and allowing her to drink the blood that flowed from it. That to me is a perfect picture of the lengths to which our blessed mother Mary would go to prove her love for us.

Is there anything Mary, our mother, would like to see in all of us? I think I can enumerate three things. Firstly, when she looks at each one of us, she would like to see something of her Son in us. The enthusiasm her Jesus had for doing the will of His Father, all His characteristics such as His caring nature, His gentleness and kindness. Secondly, she would love all of us to be united and loving one another. How it must break her heart to see her own countrymen and women in the Holy Land fighting and killing each other! Thirdly, she longs for us to be united with the Blessed Trinity and her one day in Heaven. It breaks her heart if any one of her children through malice should separate themselves from God and her.

Today then we ask the Holy Spirit to give us a tender and attentive love for God's holy mother and our heavenly mother and that we would never do anything to hurt of break her loving heart.

We end on a note of thanks. Thank you Jesus for giving Mary to us to be our mother, and thank you Mary for all the love and attention you give us.

LITTLE GIRL OF GALILEE

Little girl of Galilee, growing up so happily
Down by the lake, walking in the sand
Not knowing yet what God has planned, Mary.

What's it like to be so highly favoured Mary,
That nothing can stop God's love flowing in you
Like an ocean filling a drop of dew, Mary.

The night was black as death.  
The whole world holding its breath.
How can I imagine your joy when you gave birth to a baby Boy, Mary.

Lulalulalu, lullalulalu 
Rock Him gently but hold Him tight.
He's someone precious; He's our Light, Mary.

He must grow to man, be as strong as He can.
Some day He will have to bear, things that we are too weak to share, Mary.

Thank you is all I can say for showing us the way.
For giving to us the eternal Son.  
For saying so firmly, "Thy Will be done", Mary.



Father Francis can be contacted by E-mail at brfrancis@btconnect.com