Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bethany Mom's Retreat Yet Once Again, Seeing to Believe

Two weekends ago I was privileged to spend a couple of days at the beautiful Bethany Retreat House with a group of moms from St. Cecilia Academy and Overbrook School. We could not be more fortunate to have the Dominican Sisters teach our children as well as allow us the opportunities to spend time at their Retreat House. Since I was there two years ago, they have finished the new Chapel and Dining Room; both lovely, needless to say. It is a peaceful place to pause from our serving and sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

Now that formalities are over, let's get to the meat of the subject. I am constantly aware of the "signs" that I believe are sent from above to allow us to draw closer to Christ. Not like weird signs and wonders, but simple occurrences that pop up in front of our faces that make us just say, "Thank you Jesus, I do believe." Ya know. Like, "walk with eyes wide open and receive all He has to give" type of gifts. Our retreat topic was "The Joy of Love - the Family as Icon of the Holy Trinity" given by Fr. Albert Trudel, O.P. and I have to admit was not what drew me to the weekend. And yet, as with most things those Dominicans pull me into, the talks were awesome. Fr. Trudel gently tied together an icon (a window to the soul), Rublev's Hospitality of Abraham, also known as the Trinity, with the love we share with our children and our husband and the love of the Trinity. "As the Three Persons of the Trinity mirror the love of one another, so husband and wife and children should mirror love and help one another toward Heaven." "Love is willing the good of the other as if it is our own."  (Aquinas)


As I knelt in the Chapel, I noticed the image in the picture above behind the Tabernacle. If we look beyond the cross, to the shadows, we see on the top the clear image of a triangle and behind the corpus the images of three people on crosses. Is this lighting purposeful? The image on the left of the Son is clearer than the image on the right. Could be the good and bad thieves. Could be the Father (whom we see more clearly) and the Holy Spirit (He's there but more difficult to make out the figure). I meditated on our lives with the Trinity, us two (husband and wife) with God in our lives. And then, us two as one, with our children and God in our lives. The reading this past week explaining, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh...This is a great mystery..." I meditated on Fr.'s words, "we find our life by giving it away."

Now, I'm just saying, that when we participated in Eucharistic Adoration Saturday night, the shadows behind the crucifix were all gone except for one. For me, in my thoughts, it was clear that in the Eucharist, we are all one, just as the Trinity was joined as One Body inside that Monstrance. There is no separation between the Father and the Son and the Spirit as there should be no separation in the family. We are together in love. And yes, this is a great mystery.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I Had a Thought and Then...

I was participating in Mass yesterday at the Pastoral Center during the Catechetical Conference and an idea popped into my head and not a few minutes later popped right back out. Drives me crazy because normally when I receive something while at Mass, I want it to stick with me. Who wouldn't? Right? It was a long day, setting up St. Mary's Bookstore on 3 long tables a little after 7 a.m. then selling all day and packing up at 3 to take back to the store and return to the shelves, then close the store at 5. But, I had some great help and got to spend time with great people so I was all good. After dinner I watched a little football with my husband and promptly fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up, I asked about the game and my husband responded that Auburn just couldn't seem to get out of their own way. And that was it! That was the message I received at Mass! I couldn't believe it. It's all about Auburn...no, I mean, it's all about getting out of our own ways.

This past week my youngest daughter had several volleyball games and as I watched them fall short for the 3rd match in a row, I thought, "they just cannot seem to get our of their own way". They did more to beat themselves than the other team did to beat them. Not saying the other teams were not good or didn't deserve the wins but come on....talk, work together.

During Mass, the thought came clearly. Come on. Stop beating ourselves. We all need to get out of our own ways and talk, work together. Because after all, it's not really about who gets what or who did this or that, it's about how we treat one another during this mass confusion we call living in this world. Every day we are given many opportunities to be kind, to love, to change lives by what we say or how we say it, by what we do or don't do. Social media especially has become a major player in how we treat one another. Think about some of the things we read and some of the comments made. We really are not very kind to one another. What if we knew that every comment, every action was to test our reaction? Do we discuss topics and work with one another? Or do we react with anger? We are constantly and continually beating ourselves here. We cannot seem to get out of our own way.
I am not good about this but what if we used all the bad things that happen to us or are said about us as the chance to make a difference? Maybe even by not doing or saying anything. Or, maybe by turning bad into good. I think that's the major difference between us and the saints. With the Canonization of Mother Teresa I guess all of this has made me start thinking of the simple things she and the other Missionary of Charity sisters did and still do that all of us can do. Granted, few of us are going to serve the poor in India, but there are plenty of poor in our own cities. Wait. I'm getting off course. We all know we can do and be better. My point here is that we need to stop working against ourselves. We need to stop making what is good and holy seem so difficult. We need to take the simple opportunities put before us day after day and complete the tasks. We need to be kind to the meanest and love the haters and do for the ungrateful. We need to stop beating ourselves with unforced errors so to speak. Let's talk. Let's work together. Let's share our good thoughts and let's stay out of our own way.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home."

Today as we contemplate Our Lady of Sorrows, I remember my visits to the many beautiful Marian Shrines throughout the United States. With each visit came different gifts of grace and peace. My visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago offered a sense of peace that I had no idea I really needed. Amazing how she knows our true needs as mothers and sisters and fathers and brothers. Funny how things put together 100's of years ago can serve a direct purpose today, how God's plan unfolds and all we really need to do is show up, be attentive, be open, believe and receive. I happen to be alone on my visit to Our Lady of Sorrows. I spend time wandering to the different beautiful altars dedicated to Our Lady. It is a peaceful visit. I wander to a back chapel which was once the Baptistry and I find a rather large marble replica of Michelangelo's Pieta. As described in Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces, I am so close that I can see how young this mother is who holds her Son's body across her lap. But I also notice that her lap is greatly oversized compared to the rest of her body and the body of her Son. I realize at this moment that she is inviting me to find comfort for my own sorrows. Her lap, which is filled with her deepest sorrow, the death of her only Son, has room for all I have closed in my own heart. I can do nothing but allow her to take it all, the lose of children and brothers and grandparents and nephew and cousin and uncles and close friends, along with fears and anxieties and worries. I am drained but there is a huge relief of sort. It's  difficult to relate the experience. It's a pure gift of grace.


On this Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrow, as Jesus gives His Mother to John, He offers her to all of us. We would do well to take her into our homes. We would do well to allow her to take our needs and our cares and our concerns, our children and our parents and our friends. We would do well to visit her one on one, to pray her rosary and to trust her with our lives. She has been through it all and in her lap rests the answer to all we need.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympics, Race, Marathon

"persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus" Heb 12:2

Like many others around the world, I have been completely enamored with the Olympics. Watching these incredible men and women use their God-given talents to the max is nothing short of inspiring. For some reason I have noticed more than usual attention given to Christian athletics who have displayed their faith either by word or by action. Maybe I'm just paying more attention. Again, extremely inspiring.

There are also numerous videos on youtube from this Olympics in Rio and from past Olympics. One of the videos that caught my attention was "when Switzerland's Gabriela Andersen-Schiess finished 37th in the inaugural women's Olympic marathon at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Games. Her refusal to quit the race despite the exhausting conditions and suffering from dehydration led to an iconic Olympic moment as sheer determination saw her over the finish line." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBasZWjd92k 

As I watched this runner, more than once, stumbling to make it to the finish line, and as I listened to her interview about her desire just to finish, about her knowledge of where she was going and her need just to make it to the finish line, thoughts of our lives as Christians came flooding through my mind. The idea that this woman had run this same race many times, the idea that she had finished this same amount of miles, made me stop and think how important it is for us to continually and consistently practice our faith. Our life is nothing short of a marathon. Every day that we practice acts of charity, every day that we take time to pray, every day that we strive toward sainthood, we move a little closer to our reward of eternal life with Christ. We should, like these athletes, put our blood, sweat and tears into our workout. We should, like these athletes, leave everything out on the playing field so that at the end of the day we can truly say we gave it our all. We need to practice over and over everyday so that when the going gets tough, when we are completely drained of all our energy, when we experience true dryness and our body fails, our mind and our heart will take over and we will persevere to another day. There is no doubt that we will stumble. There is no doubt that we will be tempted to quit and to jump on the easy ride with everyone else. There is no doubt that we will feel the pain of the struggle. But, what we know as Christians, what we know from the example of Jesus Christ himself and of the Saints who have imitated His life, is that the reward is well worth the struggle, well worth continuing the journey.

In the interview with this amazing athlete, Gabriela mentions that when she arrived inside the stadium, she was cheered on by the crowd. How important it is for us to support one another in our lives of faith! She mentions that there was a Doctor behind her as she struggled through the last lap. How important it is for us to have spiritual help from our priests, our deacons and other spiritual directors! She mentions that she realized that she would never have another Olympic opportunity so she knew she had to cross that finish line. How important it is for us to take every opportunity set in front of us as if it's our last!

Practice. Persevere. Push hard. And like these great athletes, leave it all out there. Everyday. Finish. With our eyes fixed on Jesus.