Found Marian Artwork!
As promised, I'm finally getting around to posting some of the Marian art I've found in my travels recently. First up is a beautiful tapestry located in the Parish Office of the church I was married in. Since I'd never been in the Parish Office, I'd had no idea this gem was hanging behind the secretary's desk. It's big (maybe 3.5 ft high?) and quite beautiful. While not a favored style of mine, I really appreciated the use of color in this one. The red and blue are swirled together, at times indistinguishable from one another. Mary's Motherhood is, after all, inextricably entwined with martyrdom. You can't tell from my photo, but there is gold thread (paint?) laced throughout. It's beautiful.
Next up is a wonderful candle holder I found at a thrift store. I didn't purchase it (because I would have nowhere to put it), but I liked it enough to take a photo! It features the Holy Family at the Nativity, but instead of an angel surrounding them, the Blessed Mother stands guard while the angel kneels in adoration. I bet the little star cutouts make for a fantastic light show when a candle is lit within.
This is such a unique piece. I regret not purchasing it when I saw it!
This next piece is a plaque that sits out in front of our Human Services office. As little Jesus rests against His Momma, Our Lady basks in the feel of His Head against her cheek. St. Joseph, hard at work behind Them, drinks in the sight of his Beloved Family, likely with a psalm of thanksgiving in his heart.
It's such a serene image... I feel comforted just looking at it! I gave you the close-up because it's just so wonderful.
The next one is a bit blurry (sorry! I plan to get a better one). This charcoal drawing was sent to me by a wonderful friend who knows well my love for Our Lady. Here, we see her calmly sewing a garment. Did poor St. Joseph tear his cloche on a nail? Was she creating the tunic Jesus would be stripped of before being nailed to the Cross? Maybe she was creating altar linens for the Temple. Regardless, she seems focused in mind, body and spirit, calmly doing the work set before her. What must she have thought about to pass the time while she waited for Jesus and Joseph to come home from work?
The below artwork is by a studio called "Flor Larios Art." I've become a big fan of her colorful designs of Our Lady. They are so child-like... I just love them! She creates bookmarks, canvas, wood paintings and boxes like the one below and sells them through Etsy. I've been eyeing this one the last few weeks and finally went ahead and purchased it!
So there you have it, folks! These are the most recent bits of Marian art I've found to share with you! If you ever come across unique pieces of Marian art, please share them with me!!!
I helped a sister into her office this morning and was rewarded with a new image of Our Lady to share with all of you!
Many of you are likely familiar with the artwork of Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS. If you're not, I'm delighted to be the one to introduce you! He's an award-winning artist whose deeply Catholic themes jump to life through brightly colored watercolors (at least I think they're watercolors).
The image I'll be sharing today is titled "Tower of Mercy."
You'll have to forgive the reflections - those aren't part of the piece. At first glance (because I only got to see it for a few seconds before running off to work), I thought it was an image of the Incarnation. After all, the Holy Spirit has descended upon what appeared to be Our Lady's womb. I attributed the tears to her humble acceptance of the Sacrifice she knew she'd one day bear witness to.
When I opened the image up on my computer for closer inspection, the first thing I noticed was the angel at the bottom holding what looked to be a flaming pentagon. I simultaneously realized it was THE Pentagon, and it was flaming right next to the Twin Towers which were being held by the second angel. Suddenly Our Lady's tears made a lot more sense.
Also, the words around her halo are taken from the Hail, Holy Queen (a Marian prayer for those of you unfamiliar): "To thee do we send our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears."
I really like how Brother McGrath uses the curves of the letters to create a halo of tears that mimics Our Lady's sadness. Our prayer, in effect, echos hers.
She comes, then, our prayers reaching out to her and pulling her close, bearing the Holy Spirit. So many people in the years since the September 11th tragedy have said that they can't believe more people didn't die. I truly believe the Hand of God was upon America; the Blessed Mother asked that we be spared more suffering, and so angels supported the towers until more could escape. Angels surrounded the Pentagon and helped our officials get to safety. Divine Providence ensured that people who were supposed to be at the epicenter of these events were somehow displaced, late, sick or otherwise unable to be there (my brother included).
Mary is, indeed, a Tower of Mercy. As our ever-loving mother, she seeks to surround and protect us - even in the midst of chaos and terror. The flames of her love (and the Divine Love of the Spirit which emanates from her Immaculate Heart) are bigger and more powerful than those of the terrorist attacks.
And so it truly is. Our Lady is bigger and stronger than any of the terror we see in our world today, and we would do well to turn to her in prayer. She cries out for her children all over the world because we do so much damage to ourselves, but she does not forsake us; she will not forsake us. No matter how dark the night, no matter the flames and smoke that engulf us, she will rise as a beacon of hope and love, of strength and mercy.
Bless Brother McGrath for using his God-given talent in such an inspiring way. His ability to take sacred themes and make them accessible to everyone is awe-inspiring.
Taking on Vincent Van Gogh
Several of my gal pals got together to celebrate my birthday last month.
Since my birthday last year was a bit of a farce, my friends - led by Faith - decided to make up for it by going all out for my 31st.
My best friend, Mary, drove all the way from Warminster to pick me up. She and my coworker, Emily, drove me to meet up at this placed called Canvas Mixers. The concept behind this place (and others like it) is fascinating.
Professional artists offer classes on various paintings and spend three hours teaching you how to paint a particular piece step-by-step. Plus, you get to drink wine and eat cupcakes. What's not to love?
Faith chose Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night class for us because she was either insanely confident in our collective artistic abilities or rip-roaringly drunk. Regardless, we found ourselves in what looked to be the most difficult art class any of us had ever taken part in.
We ended up having a FANTASTIC time. Though we were all super intimidated by the masterpiece, our instructor calmly led us through the directives that took us from stark white canvas to refrigerator-ready-Mom-I'm-awesome artwork.
I think we were all pleasantly surprised by our inner Van Gogh. Unfortunately, two of our friends are missing from this picture because they were doing a few touch-ups to their paintings. Theirs were great, too! I highly suggest classes like this to anyone looking to boost their artistic self-worth. It was so much fun and such a great way to bond with my friends. I'd never done anything like it, but I hope to go again soon (maybe with a piece that's a little less scary).
Have any of you ever done something like this?
I'm finally rounding out my Cistercian Monastery series with the Glorious Mysteries. Whew!
Jesus knows how I feel:
I like how the sculptor made His robes look like they're billowing. It's stone! How do you carve stone into something that looks like it's fluttering in the wind??? If I could high-five the artist, I would.
The next two mysteries are different from all the other sculptures in that they are done in mid-relief style. I thought it was an odd choice given all the others are statues, but it was probably a lot cheaper to go this route than creating individual statues for all the saints present for these two events.
First up is the Ascension.
Five apostles are chosen to represent the lot of them. Again, I'm pretty sure this was done to cut down on both space and expense. The image of Jesus is almost exactly the same as the form used for the Resurrection and the apostles are in various states of adoration.
You can't really tell from the photo, but this is actually a very tall relief. When you're standing in front of it, you have to look up at it, and it does seem as if it's stretching up to the sky. Given how blue the sky was that day, it seemed that Christ was ascending right off the sculpture.
Vincent tried to give one of the apostles a high five because of how his hand was sculpted. That was funny. The lake also stretches out behind this one.
The next relief is a large image of Pentecost. I admit to being a fan of this one. Here's a detail of it:
I love how Our Lady is both centered and raised above the apostles. Given her status as Daughter, Spouse and Mother of God, it's fitting that she's got a large halo and is so obviously set apart from the men who she gently guided as they began building the Church her Son began. Here's the full image:
The next statue is probably my least favorite, but I think it's just me being picky. She's looking up into Heaven, but she looks resigned. I'd imagine she'd looked over-joyed... not just transfixed in a "I'm ready, come get me!" type stare. I almost feel this would have been her calm, reflected pose when she said "Fiat" to His Incarnation. But I digress. Here she is in all her Assumption-y glory:
Finally, the next statue is my favorite of the Glorious Mysteries. The Coronation of Mary looks like Our Lady of Mount Carmel. See for yourself:
She's officially Queen of the Universe (you can see her standing on the moon, planets and earth. She's enthroned upon a gorgeous detailed throne and hands are open in welcome. She's so regal, gentle and beautiful. I love this one!
And that, my friends, is FINALLY the end of my Cistercian virtual tour. I hope you enjoyed!
The garden leads you directly from one mystery into another, which I like. There are areas for you to sit or kneel for prayer, but the path simply continues to follow in the footsteps of Christ on the road to our salvation.
I really like that.
This set of mysteries is my favorite of the bunch. I just love the expressions of Christ. The artists did a fantastic job. They really, really did.
The Scourging was a little sad and confusing for Vincent. He couldn't understand why Jesus ("a good guy") had His Hands tied up. Vincent went behind Him and tried to undo the rocky tethers that bound Him. I explained that Jesus wasn't trapped anymore, but that when He was on earth, He took the beating so that His friends didn't have to. That made Him a hero to everyone. Vincent understood that, but it left him kinda quiet for the next couple minutes.
The Crowning with Thorns is simply Christ seated with with a simple robe, His Hands still bound, and a sad (and regal) expression on His Face. The way the artists placed His Hands enables the faithful to leave behind flowers as a sort of scepter. Of the mysteries, I think this is my favorite. It's nothing like the Coronation of Mary, but the way the artists created the two, they obviously parallel one another.
Next was Christ taking up His Cross, and again the expression on His Face is remarkable.
Walking along the path a bit father I saw a huge chapel-like shed which stood directly across from the Nativity "stable" from the Joyful Mysteries. Obviously drawing yet another parallel, the Crucifixion placement and artistry again highlights a theological truth. Christ was born to die on a Cross. He came into the world to die saving it. Incredible.
Stay tuned for the Glorious Mysteries. Hopefully it won't take me a month to cycle back through and update you! :)
Vince ran right over to the Annunciation. I asked if he knew who the statues were of and he immediately said "Mary."
I said, "Do you know who the angel is?"
Originally he thought it was St. Michael (because that's the angel he's most familiar with), but I explained that this angel was named Gabriel and got to tell Mary she was going to be Jesus' Mommy!
Vincent looked at their faces while I snapped a few photos. Then he took off running towards the Visitation.
As you can see here, Vince has made himself at home with St. Elizabeth. Her hands are open, almost as if to stop the Blessed Mother from approaching her.
I can almost hear her saying, "Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?"
And yet come Mary does. Come she must. For though news of Jesus' existence has not been announced, St. Elizabeth recognizes His Divine Presence as does her unborn son, John (the-one-day-Baptist), who leaps for joy within her womb.
Mary came, and in her labored procession to accompany Elizabeth in her final months of pregnancy, she unwittingly blessed the world with the very first Eucharistic Procession.
After all, she carried Christ Incarnate within her. She was the first, and most perfect, monstrance.
Mary, for her part, raises both her hands in a gesture of offering. Elizabeth should not be amazed that Mary has come to her, for it is not through Mary's doing that she has become the Mother of God. She is simply the hand-maiden of the Lord, and from this statue, you can just imagine her leading St. Elizabeth in the first of many Magnificats.
"My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour. He looks on his servant in her lowliness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed. The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy his name!"
For the Nativity, I was so happy to see they built a "stable" around the statues. Vincent was quite happy with the set up, too, as he freely went in to "see baby Jesus."
Mar is kneeling, and Joseph has his hands open and slightly outstretched, almost as if awaiting the gift of his newborn Son to be placed in his arms.
Vincent bent down and kissed the Child Jesus as he'd been taught to do at our parish manger. It made me happy that he remembered this small act of reverence.
Then again, he could've just been kissing on another child, because he adores kissing babies on the head. Regardless, I thought it was sweet.
The next mystery, the Presentation, was beautifully done. Vince was already there before I'd even finished taking photos of the Nativity. He kept calling out "Mommy, Mommy! I found birds!"
I thought he'd found a nest or something, but it turns out he was talking about the doves St. Joseph was holding as an offering / ransom as dictated by Jewish custom. The angel between Mary and Joseph isn't actually a part of this particular set (spoiler: Agony in the Garden), but I guess my angle picked him up. Ah well.
This mystery is the precursor to our celebration of Mass. God gives us (represented by Joseph and Mary) the gift of Himself (Christ). We offer this gift back to the Father through our mediator, the priest, and in turn, God ransoms Himself and we are thus blessed to have Him eternally. God is a master at foreshadowing!
This set of statues was interesting because St. Joseph was noticeably missing. The Blessed Mother, looking quite haggard (but again, her hands in prayer as she offers even this terror to God in accordance with His Will) is present, but St. Joseph is nowhere to be found. This is likely due to budgeting constraints, but I noticed it immediately. The scribes were dutifully paying attention to the Christ-child who looked incredibly regal standing on his pedestal teaching them about Himself (the Word of God, fully incarnate). Of course, again the master of foreshadowing, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple was looking forward to the Resurrection. Christ went "missing" during the Paschal feast. It took His parents three days to "find" Him again.
Ascension Thursday 2014
This is a photo I took last year at some point while visiting the Basilica in Philadelphia. On the left is a painting of the Ascension. To the right is the Assumption. Pretty awesome, right?
Today, I took Vince into Philly for their 12:05 Mass. We were in for a treat since Archbishop Chaput was the main celebrant. His homily consisted of quotes from Pope Benedict's previous sermon on the Ascension several years ago.
Anyway, when we entered the Basilica, Vince and I sat up towards the front as we typically do. I like him being able to see what's going on. Today he was incredulous. It was his first Mass at the Basilica, and woooooooo - his eyes were in Heaven!
When we sat down, I didn't realize that we were directly in front of the painting of the Ascension. Vincent looked up and said, "Mommy, Jesus is going to Heaven! Look!"
I followed his line of sight and smiled at the good fortune of having been steered to our particular seats. I snapped this picture with my cell phone (so it doesn't look nearly as nice as the one above):
I said "Vincent, that's exactly why we're here today! We're celebrating that Jesus went up to Heaven!"
He said, "Yeah!" as if he'd known that all along.
I said, "Do you know why He went to Heaven?"
And again, as if I'd asked the silliest question ever, he replied matter-of-factly, "To make lunch for everyone."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Right on, grasshopper. Right on.
Canonizations Trump Divine Mercy?
Color me incredibly disappointed.
Agitated might be a better word. Suspicious, even.
Yet again, there was no real celebration / veneration of Divine Mercy this past weekend. I specifically went to a parish that I thought stood the best chance of acknowledging this Feast, but I was again (third year in a row) discouraged by a complete lack of time dedicated to calling the faithful to take full advantage of this incredible once-a-year event.
The Feast of Divine Mercy occurs the Sunday after Easter. Why is this such a special event? Jesus promised that to those who venerate His Divine Mercy will be forgiven all of their sins and will be granted full remittance of the punishment due as a result of those sins.
That's a clean slate, folks. Clean as in pristine... a baptismally clean soul that is gift wrapped and handed to you simply because Jesus loves you THAT MUCH and wants you as close as possible to Him.
That is a MIND-BOGGLING GIFT. Should you die after reception of the Eucharist (having completed veneration and prayers), you would go RIGHT TO HEAVEN. No stopping in Purgatory, no fear of Hell... not even if you committed the worst, most heinous sins imaginable.
And yet for three years now, three different parishes that I've attended have basically ignored this! THREE!
Is this willful ignorance??? I mean, how in the world do you NOT discuss this with your parishioners??? How do you NOT admonish them to take full advantage of this feast???
Given the mess this world is in, wouldn't you want your people to take full advantage of armor such as this?
Everyone was so focused on the canonizations. I'm fully aware of how historic and cool it is to have such gems added to our Church Canon, but c'mon now. If St. John Paul II were physically standing here in front of the Church, I guarantee you he'd be smacking us lovingly with a stick and reminding us of the feast day he, himself, approved.
That was part of why they pushed to have his canonization coincide with Divine Mercy Sunday. His canonization, though, no matter HOW MUCH everyone loves him, should not have overshadowed Divine Mercy. I don't care if we were canonizing him and fifty billion others around the world. No amount of canonizations and no amount of holiness on the part of humans (even humans like JPII) can possibly outshine the dignity, grace and blessings of DIVINE MERCY.
I'm seriously so upset over this. So flippin' upset.
At the end of our Mass, Fr. John did mention it briefly in passing, but he said something along the lines of "For those of you with a Divine Mercy devotion, this is your Sunday. I wish you a blessed feast."
My mouth actually dropped open.
The 2nd Sunday of Easter is not strictly for devotees. It's for EVERYONE who wants to avail themselves of Christ's Mercy. He doesn't restrict it to those of us who happen to like that particular chaplet or happen to have this image up in our homes. It is for ALL SINNERS. To wave it off as a small devotion is such a disservice to the meaning behind this feast.
It's now Wednesday and I'm still incredibly bummed about this. I can't imagine St. John Paul II being happy that a party for him and his buddy, Saint John the 23rd, completely overshadowed the most joyous feast that Christ, Himself, gifted to the world.
I just... wow. So sad about this. Please tell me there are those of you out there who had Masses that highlighted this feast.
John came home the other day bearing a gift. He was oddly serious, and as soon as he said, "Uncle Mike wanted me to give you this" I knew it was something of Nanny's. I heard it before I saw it. There was a delicate sound of beads clinking together, so I looked at John and said, "Her rosary?"
John shook his head and said, "No. A bracelet."
He then lifted a beautiful hematite beaded bracelet from its protective wrapping and put it in my hand. I remember seeing Nanny wear this. I had complemented her one it once before because it's got one of my favorite images of Our Lady as its centerpiece. Instantly I was joyed to have this exquisite piece of Nanny's religious collection.
I asked if he was 100% sure no one else in the family would be upset that I was recieving this little treasure. I only married into the family. I've only got ten blessed years of knowing Nanny, so Heaven forbid I be given something that holds more sentimental value for someone else, ya know?
He assured me that he and Uncle Mike talked about it, though. Uncle Mike specifically put it aside for me because he knew Nanny would have wanted me to have it. Both Uncle Mike and Nanny knew of my love for the Blessed Mother, so I was grateful. I spoke with Uncle Mike last night about it. I thanked him for being so thoughtful as to put it aside for me. He gave me a hug and said he couldn't think of anyone else who would appreciate it as much as I would.
I'm just so humbled and grateful for this beautiful reminder of Nanny's devotion to Our Lady. She clung to her Faith, and I know it served her well, especially at the end.
I have little doubt the Blessed Mother came to collect her.
Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, rain your blessing down on those who have gone before us. May they all await us in Heaven.
I seriously went back and forth about posting tonight. So many people are already blogging up a storm about the canonization of our two beloved popes. I think that's great! I'm just not feeling very moved to write about it, likely because so many others are doing such a great job.
So if you're interested to learn more about the canonizations, I direct your attention to Father Robert Barron's Word From Rome.
Also, as a complete aside, did anyone know that this movie even existed? Cary Elwes and Jon Voight come together to tell the story of Pope (now Saint) John Paul II. Awesome!
Anyway, if you're up for hearing me talk about the image and feast of Divine Mercy, then grab some popecorn (see what I did there?) and stick around.
Saint Faustina was a humble, quiet nun who received visions of Christ and the Blessed Mother. She was ordered to keep a journal of these visions. Her journal, now known as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, was my reading material of choice during the time of my reversion.
I learned so much about true virtue while reading her conversations with Jesus, especially the value of obedience and humility (things I still struggle with today).
Anyway, this image has always been one of my favorites of Jesus. He said "My gaze from this image is like My gaze from the Cross."
Think for a moment. In the image above, Christ's Face is not one of anger or judgement; His Countenance is one of mercy. He is looking intently into your eyes, seeking your soul. He was suffering and dying FOR YOU. There is nothing but you and Christ when looking at this image. Nothing. His Sacred Heart issues forth Blood (red) and water (blue) - the same Blood and water that poured forth when His Heart was lanced by the centurion at the Crucifixion.
He gave us everything unto the very last drop of Himself so that we might regain our inheritance. That's mind-bogglingly insane. Yet that is our God. His love is, quite honestly, boundless. He loves us wholly and completely and will abandon Himself fully so that we can be come home.
In this image Jesus comes to us dressed as a servant. It is an alb, the same that priests wear under their chasuble. It was the same undergarment that Jesus wore at the Last Supper when He cleaned the feet of His apostles. It is the garment of a lowly servant - a slave. We don't recognize it as servant attire because we associate it so closely with religious life.
In order to understand the importance and depth of this image, though, we need to understand the importance and depth of this clothing choice. Christ, as Divine Mercy, is coming to us as a servant... a slave. This is GOD - the Creator of all - coming to us not as a king, not as a celebrity, not as a warrior. His unfathomable love incarnated Itself to become a slave to all of humanity. He bore the weight of our sins and accepted Divine Wrath (as payment for Divine Justice) so we would not have to. Thus, His Mercy comes to us in the form of a servant. Mercy does not seek to judge as a king, to seek glory as a celebrity nor to seek vengeance like a warrior. Instead, He extends forgiveness and love - always love.
How does He extend this love? While pointing to His Sacred Heart, the source of such incredible, self-consuming love, He pours out His very self. His Precious Blood is the essence of His Life; the water is the essence of His Holy Spirit, poured out as if to baptize the world unto Himself.
I love that the background is black - His Mercy comes when it looks like there is no other hope. Even in the black of night, the pits of despair, His rays of Mercy extend, lighting the way to reach Him.
His Hand is raised not in judgement, but in blessing.
The words "Jesus, I trust in You" are written in gold. This faith in His Mercy is like a priceless diamond to Him. How much Jesus wishes that we would call out to His Mercy!
He told to St. Faustina, "[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy."
Just... wow, right?
So with that in mind, take a good long look at this image today. Take time to say some prayers of thanksgiving for God's gift of Mercy. Mercy that extended unto coming down from paradise to know misery, torture and death so that we may gain Heaven.
For more information, click here.
The outside of this church belies its spacious, breezy interior with golden sunlight streaming in from every window. It feels like you are ambling under a gazebo during a relaxing summer afternoon. I was surprised with how massive it felt, especially when you considered the size of the image of Mary that hung high and proud behind the tabernacle.
I grinned when I noted that the pews were very modest. There were no cushions, no padding on the kneelers. Worship isn't about creature comforts... it's about praising God.
I captured this sacristan's head along with the tabernacle to give you an idea just how massive this piece of artwork actually is. This rendition of Our Lady of Guadalupe might be among my favorites. She is simply beautiful, as she should be. Above her are the words "Queen of Mexico and Empress of America." At least I'm 99.9% sure of that, anyway.
I felt like this piece was woven or embroidered somehow. It wasn't a painting... at least I don' think it was. I just couldn't imagine the time it took to painstakingly stitch each glorious detail.
Here is a full shot of the sanctuary. Given the scope of the Virgin's tapestry, you can imagine how large the crucifix actually is.
I didn't notice until after I'd taken the photo, but the detail of Christ's Face moved me. I don't typically like the super gaunt versions of Our Lord looking anorexic (He was a carpenter - He would have been strong and broad from all His toil with wood), but I did not mind this one so much. The artist did not shy away from the Blood that oozed from His wounds. I appreciate that His shoulder wound and those on His knees were accounted for. So often they are forgotten.
On either side of the Virgin stood these statues. St. Joseph holding Jesus as a toddler and St. Juan Diego with his unfurled tilma displaying the miraculous image of Our Lady.
I was struck by the Child Jesus' depiction with short, cropped hair. It was styled similarly to Vincent's! It made me think of him reaching up for John. Usually Jesus has long curls. I think I like this version! Juan Diego was painted a darker color than I'd ever seen. I liked that touch so much because so often our saints are Anglicanized and their natural skin and hair colors completely ignored for the common blond hair, blue eyed "ideal" in so many picture books.
St. Michael and a beautiful guardian angel flank both sides of the sanctuary. St. Michael has the power of the Holy Spirit above him while the guardian angel protects her three native charges. I really loved this latter stained glass image. It was very peaceful and loving.
One of their beautiful circular stained glass windows, this one depicting the Holy Family.
Which one of you dares to disbelieve Our Lady's intervention now?! :)
A fitting painting for above the confessional - Jesus saving St. Peter from his own lack of faith.
A couple of their stations. I'm always appreciative when the Resurrection is included. :)
I probably should've mentioned these last two points in my other blog entry, but here will do just fine.
Instead of having lay ministers, this parish utilizes the Brides of Christ to bring Communion to the people. I'm not the biggest fan of women acting as Eucharistic Ministers, but if you're going to allow it, I can't imagine a better way.
Also, the altar servers sat at opposites sides of the sanctuary facing one another (behind the altar but in front of the tabernacle). I thought they were very much like the Seraphim who guarded the Ark of the Covenant. It made me smile to think of them as such given their constant gaze upon the tabernacle.
Finally, a photo of me (graciously taken by my husband) with a frond of palm across from the church. On the way back to the resort, I braided what turned out to be four long leaves into small crowns for my statues at home.
All in all, a beautiful experience at a wonderful parish... even if I couldn't understand all the words being spoken, I could feel the love. For me, that is enough.
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, was a beautiful slice of Heaven located a few miles from our resort. It took only 15 minutes or so to arrive by taxi, and my husband was kind enough to accompany me into town so I wouldn't be travelling around in Mexico by myself.
That's right, folks. My wonderful (and atheist) husband agreed to chaperone. Having him with me, I felt confident and comfortable. Thank God he's such a gem. I know Mass was the last thing he wanted to do (especially on our last morning in Mexico), but he came. God bless him, he came.
We arrived about 20 minutes before Mass which gave me ample time to snap a few photographs and pay attention to the pre-Mass cleaning and organization that happened in a flurry of volunteers.
In the sanctuary, an adorable sister swept the marble floor. She paid careful attention to the stairs and shooed away someone dropping palm strands unwittingly before the podium.
An older gentleman, his one arm bandaged tightly to his chest, was using his other arm to deftly maneuver a broom in and out of each pew, somehow navigating kneelers, feet and purses. The action must have been hard on his good arm and shoulder - even his lower back probably hurt from constantly stooping to get under the seats - but he did not seem to mind. He offered himself as custodian of the Lord's House, and I marveled at his quiet dedication.
Then there were ladies in dressed in red. Obviously part of a society of sorts (or maybe a hospitality committee), these women acted like an army of mother hens, hurriedly flitting back and forth through the entire church, ushering some folks to their seats, handing out copies of the readings, informing folks where they could go for palm, etc. It was like they were everywhere at once, working together as a well-oiled machine in anticipation of the swell of Palm Sunday worshippers.
Then there was Father Patrick. At least I'm about 99.9% sure it was Father Patrick. This thoroughly Irish priest stood out from the procession both for his fair complexion and his height. My husband chuckled with surprise and confusion at his presence. He and our friends wondered why they'd need to import an Irish priest given the country is thoroughly Catholic.
They failed to realize that tourists need Confession, too, and English is the best way to reach the majority of us. At least that was my guess. Not that it matters. A priest is a priest regardless of his country of origin, and Lord knows I'm always grateful for them wherever they are.
I had briefly connected with Father Patrick before travelling down to Mexico. My blogger-friend, Jacob Wall, kindly put us into contact when Jacob found out I was trying to plan for Mass while on vacation.
***As a complete aside, I must take a moment to publicly thank Jacob for his incredible help. Without his e-mails of reassurance and helpful pointers, I'm pretty sure I'd've stuck out like the sore thumb I am for more reasons than simply language. His guidance was instrumental in making me feel at ease leaving the resort to cross through town to get to this parish. I honestly cannot thank him enough for his willingness to patiently answer my questions. THANK YOU, JACOB!!!
Mass was exactly what I'd envisioned. There was a wonderful procession into the church led by Father Patrick in his alb and two young altar boys. A lone guitarist strummed simple (but beautiful) melodies that engaged the whole congregation. The readers were direct and humble, each being sure to pay respect to their God in the tabernacle with a genuflect or a reverent bow. Their attention to this often-forgotten reverence made my heart leap with joy.
One thing that surprised me, though, was the Gospel reading. As many of you know, the Passion Narrative is re-enacted by the priest, lector, and congregation. This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, participated in the Crucifixion of Christ.
I retract that statement for correction. Instead, it should read "This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, PARTICIPATE in the Crucifixion of Christ." After all, we participate each and every time we sin. Each sin is an echo of "Crucify Him!" Heaven forgive us.
As this narrative was being read, I noticed that no one in the congregation was reading their portion. Only I was (or it seemed that way to me). I can't speak fluent Spanish, but I can fluidly read the words printed in front of me, so I read our portion aloud only to realize I was the only one reading aloud in addition to the second lector.
I was confused. I wasn't sure if it was a cultural thing to not take part in the spoken liturgy beyond prescribed responses, or if the majority of parishioners were unable to read. I can't imagine it being the latter because it seemed like they were reading along, just not being vocal about it. Regardless, I kept pace with the reading figuring if I was wrong, the folks around me would chalk it up to my own ignorance at custom. At least I hoped they would.
The homily went well beyond my realm of understanding. The only portion I was able to catch was when Father Patrick explained that Christ did not come as a mighty conqueror. He came as a humble Man who died a terrible death on the Cross. He was not what the people were expecting their champion to be. Instead, He brought salvation in a way no one had foreseen. I'm very likely butchering even my weak paraphrasing of the snippet I think I understood, but it was enough of a reflection to keep me sustained through the rest of his homily. Maybe that's all God thought I needed to think on... especially given how arrogant I tend to be sometimes.
Christ didn't come as a warrior who violently clamped down on His enemies. He came as a gentle victim, offering Himself as a beacon that would lead us home.
Stay tuned for my next entry, dedicated to their artwork.
Pieta Plaque Giveaway
My final Lenten Giveaway consists of this gorgeous resin wall plaque depicting Michelangelo's exquisite Pieta.
Was there ever a sculpture more beautiful?
Not in my opinion. Michelangelo's hands were guided by the angels as he chiseled away to define Our Lord and Lady's features.
Mary's Divine Maternity is laid out upon her lap, and all who see cannot help but feel their hearts moved to pity for this grieving mother.
And Christ - His beaten, lifeless Body drained of everything for love of us. How can we not stop to meditate on this impossibly awe-filled sacrifice?
I felt this was the most apropos prize for the final weeks of Lent.
Here's a detail. The plaque is simply beautiful.
Again, I'll be hosting the giveaway through Rafflecopter. Details on entry are below. Easy entry for folks who are already following via FB / Twitter!
When I walked into St. Edmond's Church in S. Philly, I was stunned to absolute silence when I saw the sanctuary.
I didn't even notice the flowers (which says a lot given they spilled out of the sanctuary and up two aisles different aisles). I was absolutely taken by the giant mural of Calvary, the breathtaking statues of depicting the Crucifixion.
At first, I didn't even notice Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross. You can barely make her out from the iPhone photo above. But she's there, clinging to Christ's Cross, grieved for the suffering He endured. The Blessed Mother's face was sad but intensely loving - as if she wanted to soothe His suffering with arrows of Love shot directly from her broken heart. Poor St. John just looks humble and awestruck... as if he's just beginning to understand what Jesus meant all those times He said He'd have to leave him and the other disciples.
Christ, for His part, is displayed with His arms outstretched and both hands with three fingers raised. Behind Him, on the mural, is painted Jerusalem. A storm is raging as no doubt the veil of the Temple is being torn in two.
It was by contemplating this sanctuary that I realized Christ was forced out of the earthly Jerusalem in order to open the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem to us.
He exiled Himself from Heaven to come to Earth in order to come back again the Victor over death.
I love this sanctuary! What a powerful visual. I'm still in awe - even through a terrible iPhone photo!
Above this scene is a mural of the Coronation of Mary. It's dark, but you can see it here:
The angel to the left is kneeling and holding a banner that reads "Hail Mary, Queen of Heaven." The other angels are kneeling and blessing God for her triumph over sin to become Queen of Heaven.
The Trinity is present (even though you can't make out the Holy Spirit - sorry). Beneath them are seven gorgeous stained glass windows, each one depicting a Sacrament.
I found this art setup to be ingenious. Your eye is drawn up to the Heavens, but your focus is always on the Crucifixion.
It's just beautiful.
I'll have to stop back at this church with a real camera at some point. You can tell the parishioners take incredibly good care of it. Everything is impeccable. Uncle Billy was blessed to have his final Mass said in such a beautiful place of worship. I hope others attending the funeral felt a little closer to God... a little more understanding of His love... as a result of seeing these incredible works of sacred art.
Forgive my tardiness. I had originally planned to post this Giveaway on Friday, but Uncle Billy's funeral went longer than I had anticipated.
However, here it is!
I'm excited to announce that I'll be giving away four different crucifixes, each a beautiful bit or art.
First up is this amazing Stations of the Cross crucifix. The little boxes each depict a different station. It's small enough to really use as a prayer tool, but it's obviously great to hang on the wall, too.
I just found the size perfect to keep by my bedside for personal prayer. It's like having the Stations of the Cross in my parish church right in the palm of my hand!
So for Lent, I thought this was a very fitting prize for those looking to deepen their understanding of (and appreciation for) Christ's Passion.
It's just magnificent.
Next in line is a dream for those devotees of Divine Mercy. St. Faustina joins Christ as Divine Mercy onto this wood cross. The "shine" you see is the reflective gold paint the artist used to create a border and accents.
Three doting cherubs look down in wonder at the gift of Divine Mercy while St. Faustina is consistently at prayer for all of her "poor souls."
This is the largest crucifix in the giveaway, standing at 12" high, this would be great as an entryway crucifix. It is bold, different, and a great reminder that Christ's death, though terrible, was, in fact, a gift of Divine Mercy. He died not to condemn, but to reconcile.
Again, sorry for the glare. I was taking these images with an iPhone, so not all of them came out as nicely as I'd hoped.
Anyway, this is a truly beautiful crucifix. It's called an "Archangels Crucifix" because of the presence of St. Gabriel (holding the lillies to signify purity and truth), St. Raphael (holding a staff to represent healing) and St. Michael at the foot of the cross defeating the serpent. At the top, these three archangels lead the "host of angels" behind them in prayer and contemplation of the Triune Sacrifice a the center of the cross.
This colorful cross is about 6" high and is STUNNING.
Finally, we have this little guy.
This is a small cross depicting the Trinity in all their infamous iconic appearances. Each branch of the cross contains a different variation on well-known iconography of the Most Holy Trinity.
I love this because of the way it forces folks to remember that we didn't just sacrifice Christ on Calvary. The sacrifice was a TRIUNE sacrifice. God the Father and the Holy Spirit took just as much an active role in this mercy as Jesus. This beautiful cross depicts their loving, united relationship so wonderfully.
Even at only 3.5" it packs a powerful punch!
Okay, so now that you've seen these beauties, directions on how to enter are below!
Good luck and again... may your Lent continue to be blessed!
I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of Walking With Jesus to Calvary: Stations of the Cross for Children. I got it in the mail early this year and have been waiting for Lent to roll around given the nature of the book.
Here we are!
The book is written by Angela M. Burrin and illustrated by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio. Truthfully, the illustrations are what drew me in to the story. Colorful, fluid and expressive, they told the story of the Stations in beautiful detail.
The writing ended up surprising me. At first, I was very put off by the "lengthy" paragraphs. Truthfully, I think this is because my expectation was that I'd be able to read it to Vincent. This book is not meant for toddlers. It's meant for older children - at least 1st grade and up. Once I made peace with that, I found the narrative grew on me.
I especially love how Burrin pays close attention to the Blessed Mother throughout the stations. Never is she far from her Son. She, too, is an active participant in His Passion, and Burrin does a wonderful job keeping this in focus for us. There are some passages that solicited heart-wrenching sadness for her. For this fact alone, this book has become my favorite Stations book for children.
Now for the content:
There is a brief Forward that explains what the Stations of the Cross are and why we keep this form of prayer alive. There is also a page explaining how to pray the stations, offering suggestions for first-timers (It's okay to choose one or two Stations at a time and really focus on them. You don't have to pray them all at once!).
There is no Table of Contents (I assume with 14 stations, it's hard to get lost). However, given the Stations are listed where the Table of Contents usually go, I'm not sure why they opted to leave out page numbers. That could be helpful to veterans who are looking to focus on one or two for a specific prayer intention.
Just before the Stations begin, Burrin wisely decided to explain a little about Holy Thursday, and how Jesus came to be in Pilate's courtyard. Thus, with the kiss of Judas Iscariot, we begin our journey with the Stations.
At each Station, Biblical quotes are interlaced with imagination as Burrin tells the story of Jesus' Passion in a child-friendly manner. At the end of each Station, there is a small reflection / prayer kids can offer that brings that footstep of Christ in sync with their own. One, in particular, calls out to the Holy Spirit. I loved that, because normally the reflection prayers tend to focus solely on Jesus.
Of course, each Station is beautifully illustrated by Lo Casio. Some of the images have left me staring at them for many minutes before I realize I've lost myself in their mysteries. I mean, just look at these two examples. I apologize, I snapped them with my phone, but even through the grainy iPhone shutter, the powerful emotions pours through:
Oh, that last one of Our Lady cradling Jesus - it is perfect. The tree in the background is barren and lifeless (which is poignant given how lively the background trees were in previous Stations). The atmosphere is grey, foggy and ominous. Joseph of Arimethea is hunched over them like an old bough weighed down by weather, protective. Mary's mantle is unfurled to encompass Jesus' Body... an exaggerated drawing, but similar to Michelangelo's Pieta. The effect is a brutal, gut-wrenching beauty - a mother cradling Her Baby Boy one last time as the entire world mourns with her.
Can you guess where I keep catching myself getting lost?
Finally, the Stations end with the Resurrection (since not all books contain a 15th!). Burrin includes Mary Magdalene's joyous meeting of her Resurrected Savior, which I always appreciate.
This book then gifts you a few surprise pages that I think are incredible resources for school-aged children.
The first is a 2 page spread on Prayer Intentions. After all, when you pray the Stations, you should have some intentions in mind, right? This useful list suggests everything from family and friends to doctors, politicians and the souls in Purgatory. I LOVED this, and I thought it was very wise to add this section.
Finally, there was a four-page spread of traditional prayers used while praying the Stations of the Cross. These pages, just as the Stations, themselves, are beautiful illustrated. These latter pages reminded me of those gorgeous illuminated manuscripts monks would create as they copied the Bible over and over and over again.
Verdict: This hard-cover book is a winner, all 45 pages of it. I am so glad The Word Among Us Press sent it my way for review.
As a thanks, I'll be giving one away to one of you fine readers! Enter via Rafflecopter below.
Gorgeous Painting of Holy Family
Swoon with me, people! Isn't this just darling?
This painting by John Everett Millais not only captures Jesus and His parents... it captures John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth, too!
It seems they're all hard at work in St. Joseph's carpentry shop. They're working on what looks to be a door. Poor little Jesus nicked His Hand (His Blood trickled down onto His Foot), and Our Lady stoops down to comfort Him. John-not-yet-the-Baptist comes running in with his trusty water, a precursor to his future calling.
The others surround and look on intently at the unfolding scene before them. St. Joseph even reaches out to grab Jesus' hand as if to see how badly He'd hurt Himself.
You can see the Holy Spirit hanging out on Jacob's Ladder in the above detail, too.
As St. Joseph checks Jesus' Hand, St. Elizabeth is already moving to remove the blasted nail from the door so He doesn't hurt Himself again. You can also juuuust make out the triangle, a carpenter's tool and also a symbol of the Trinity.
A young man looks on - likely an apprentice of St. Joseph's. Just outside are the herds of sheep indicative of the flocks Christ will lead as the Good Shepherd.
Yup. I'm swooning for this painting. The colors... the details... the symbols chosen... even their facial expressions. Everyone seems so somber... as if they all understand what this little event is foreshadowing.
Everyone but St. Joseph. To me, he simply looks concerned and loving towards Jesus. "Oh Son, you've cut Yourself. Let's see what we can do to make sure You're okay again. There, there."
He's even holding three of Christ's Fingers. Jesus is typically painted with three fingers up to represent His union with the Trinity. His other two fingers represent His Human and Divine natures. In this case, one is pointing upwards (His thumb) and the other is pointing down for His Humanity. I like what Millais did there.
Alrighty, you folks enjoy. I absolutely love stumbling across gems like this!
Jesus on Housework
I have a few books I keep on hand for short bursts of reading. The one I'm focusing on today is called The Two Witnesses and is a collection of excerpts from a larger work titled True Life in God. Both works were written by a purported visionary by the name of Vassula Ryden.
Again, as with all things mystic, keep your eyes on the Holy Spirit and ask His guidance. I am neither supporting nor denying her claims. I haven't even gotten halfway through the book yet. So please exercise prudence.
That being said, I came across something that made me laugh a few days ago. It's been rattling around in my head ever since, so I'd like to share it with you.
When Vassula writes, she tends to go back and forth between her conversation with Christ (or His mother) and her conversation with those she's praying with (which technically extends to readership). This particular excerpt prefaces the particular "Message" Christ supposedly had Vassula write down, and even though she writes it as a preface, the reaction from Christ takes place AFTER He dictated the message.
Yesterday I was... under the Lord's dictation... and in the end I asked Jesus, "Jesus, shall we go now and do some other work?" (I had in mind to start cleaning the kitchen.) And Jesus, without the slightest hesitation said, "Then let us go!" He sounded very eager to have me up and start cleaning the kitchen. He behaved as though I had to do a very important and urgent work."
I chuckled when I read that. In all of the excerpts, Jesus is talking about very important matters like God's Love for His children, how wayward we've become and how vital it is that we reflect upon how little we love one another, but when the floors need scrubbing, the floors need scrubbing.
It reminded me of a quote I found on a fellow blogger's page that also made me chuckle when I first read it a few years ago. Hat tip to Katherine of Having Left the Altar for this namesake gem:
"A married woman must often leave God at the altar to find Him
I remember laughing when I'd read that upon stumbling over to her blog. I think that's why I kept reading. The idea that God could be found in the mundane - maybe ESPECIALLY in the mundane - it was something that amused me.
I guess it still does.
And yet I believe it. I fully believe that God sees the work of looking after our homes and families to be of importance. Each washed dish and tucked away toy is an act of love. Each sweep of the floor and every stir of the pot is another syllable of a mother's ongoing ode of love to her family.
God doesn't see the scrubbing of floors as a banal act of drudgery. If done with a happy heart, He accepts it as the gift of love it is. All we do is a gift of love if we allow it to be.
Simple Valentine Craft
These were the cute little crafts Vincent and I put together for my mom and John's mom for St. Valentine's Day. I saw something similar on Pinterest and thought I could adapt it to Vincent's skill set. I'm really happy with how they came out. They're simply adorable!
All you need:
A frame (I chose 8x10)
Fabric leaves (optional)
What to do:
1) Paint your child's hand with red paint (or, as I did, let your son smash his hand around in a dish of paint).
2) Press hand firmly onto poster board (top center leaving about an inch border).
3) If you're using fabric leaves, you can thread a green pipe cleaner through the stem, or you can simply glue them in place as sepals. If you'd rather, you can simply paint, draw or use pipe cleaners to create the sepals.
4) Use different colored pipe cleaners to form letters. This was something Vince needed help with, but once I showed him how to do it, he kinda liked trying to bend the pipe cleaners into shapes.
5) Glue the letters into place. We chose to spell out "Love," but obviously you can spell out whatever you'd like.
6) Date the project!
7) Insert the poster board (now completed) into the frame after allowing time for the paint / glue to dry.
Super easy and super fun. I absolutely loved how they turned out, and Vincent's really proud of them, too. Plus, it was a great way to work on his fine motor skills. We can't wait to give them out. Hopefully the snow goes away so we're able to do that soon!
Christ's Valentine to Us
On Tuesday night, I explained the roots of St. Valentine's Day to my class. I told them about Father Valentine and the love for (and dedication to!) God that he was ultimately put to death for. I explained how from his jail cell, awaiting death, this holy and courageous priest would write letters to his parishioners telling them to hold fast to their love of Christ through their love of one another.
Many of them were surprised to know the national day for flowers and candy actually springs out of the martyrdom of a holy and courageous priest. When I pointed out the liturgical color for a martyr's feast is red, it took them all a quick moment to connect why everything associated with Valentine's Day follows suit. Tradition is a terribly hard thing to bury indefinitely. *Grin*
Anyway, at the end of class, I read an excerpt from The Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of you unaware, this incredibly beautiful prayer book was dictated to Luisa Piccarreta by Our Lord, Himself. Together, the two of them journeyed back to His Passion and experienced it for the purpose of sharing the depth of His love story to us.
I could speak of this prayer book forever, but I chose a small snippet for my class expressly for St. Valentine's Day. It is taken from the 10am-11am hour of His Passion, just as He takes up His Cross. It reads:
I [Luisa] see that your enemies shove You down the steps, while the mob awaits You with fury and eagerness. They have You find the Cross already prepared, which You seek with great longing. You look at it with Love; and You go straight towards it to embrace it. First, You kiss it; and, as a shiver of joy surges through your most Holy Humanity, You look at it with utmost satisfaction and measure its length and width. You now establish the portion in it for all creatures. You endow them with sufficient cross in order to bind them to the Divinity with a nuptial bond and render them heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I reflected thusly to my children:
Jesus did not run from His Cross. He did not turn away from the torturous and humiliating death He was about to endure. Instead, He JOYFULLY accepted His Cross. He kissed the very instrument of His death because He understood how necessary it was for the salvation of His beloved family. WE are His family. He kissed that Cross for Love of us. He shouldered that Cross for US, and He left to us the inheritance found within its splinters so that one day we might be reunited with God in Heaven.
This is our constant Valentine. Each and every time we see it, we must stop to reflect upon the Divine Love that was infused within its very existence.
"Behold, I make all things new."
Oh Lord, behold, indeed! You took the world's symbol of humiliation, agony and defeat only to turn it into the triumphant throne of mercy, salvation and victory. This is, indeed, our truest love letter from You, signed in Your Most Precious Blood and delivered with Your final, loving sigh.
This is my reflection for Saint Valentine's Day.
May the Lord bless each and every one of you with peace, love and mercy.
Isn't she beautiful???
I just adore pregnant versions of Our Lady. This statue is just under 12" high. I found her in my travels at the Archdiocesan building. She's located on the 11th floor on the desk of a colleague. I asked permission to snap these photos with my phone and she laughed saying she got compliments on this statue all the time.
I asked if there was a St. Joseph statue to go along with this (like some sort of La Posada set). She said she didn't think so. It's always been just Mary and the little, unborn Jesus within her.
I could look at this statue all day. I absolutely love it! So I'm sharing it with you fine folks!
Here she is from both sides so you can appreciate just how round with Life she is! In the one on the right, it almost looks like Jesus' tiny Foot is pushing her abdomen out slightly. *Giddy swoon* LOOOOVE this tiny statue!
The Blessed Mother as the first (and most pure) tabernacle of Christ. How she must have marveled at the miracle hidden within her most holy womb.
My Pro-Life Banner
To be pro-life is to deny fear, pride and selfishness; it is to share in the multiplication of life, laughter and love.
That is my choice. Life.
For him, and for all children.
Prayers for all those at the march, contemplating abortion, providing abortion, healing after abortion, or trying to support a victim of abortion.
We will not allow these innocents to be silenced.
A coworker wanted to get a St. Michael medal for his friend who is becoming a police office this weekend. I told him I had one at home and promised to bring it in.
Given how much I use medals for Lenten projects, I typically have a bag of 20 or 30 on-hand, so I put them in my purse and brought them in today.
As we were sorting through them looking for St. Michael, I came across one for St. Philomena. I added it to the holy card on my office wall. I look at them constantly, and each time I do, I'm reminded to say a prayer or refocus my attention on God. Finding her medal was a nice bonus.
I actually found three, so I'll wear one and keep the other in the pile for my kids at Lent.
Anyway, I also found one for St. Genesius. I've never heard of St. Genesius! So I did some digging and came up with a pretty awesome conversation story.
St. Genesius of Rome was apparently the Shakespeare of his day. He led an acting troupe and performed plays that mocked Christianity.
During one play which sought to belittle the Sacrament of Baptism, Genesius saw two angels come towards him with a list of his sins. Immediately demanding baptism, his fellow actors thought he was simply acting out the play. However, Genesius insisted that he must be baptized and proclaimed the truth of Christianity.
Upon hearing this, Diocletian ordered St. Genesius to be tortured. This had no effect on Genesius. He continued to proclaim the truth of Christ to anyone who would listen. Confounded by his refusal to deny Christ, he was beheaded. From his martyrdom, a popular devotion to this saint sprang forth.
That's what I call Divine Intervention!
What a great conversion story - very Saint Paul!
Ah well. I'm glad to have been acquainted with a new saint today. I'm always fascinated by the stories of these ordinary people who, unbeknownst to them, are called to be beacons of truth. Just... incredible!
Dichotomy of Secrets
For someone who hates math as much as I do, my favorite artist is a mathematical genius.
Truthfully, his symmetry and creative outlook on the impossible are what originally drew me to him. Also, he has an uncanny way of making the impossible seem true... of causing two diametrically opposed objects to work together as if they were always intrinsically the same.
So when I think about the dichotomy of secrets, I think of an MC Escher piece.
Because secrets contain a built-in paradox. Half the horses in your mind want nothing more than to keep that secret private. They're content in their stalls, munching on their hay and reflecting on what amounts to be a very personal, intimate matter.
Those other horses, however... they're chomping at the bit and pawing at the stall doors to escape and spread the secret to anyone and everyone who will listen.
My secret? Myla Therese.
Today, Remembrance Day, made me keenly aware of this inner dichotomy. Myla's existence is still mostly unknown. My mother, my SD, you folks and a tiny handful of friends (6 or 7 maybe?) are even aware of what happened. No one else on either side of the family knows, and I don't bring her up to anyone but the closest to me. It's those pesky horses... the half that wants to keep her private and mine - all mine - they're content to sit in their stalls and keep her memory there.
Those other horses, though... sometimes they get creative and find ways of slipping out. A few days ago, I commented on a Facebook thread that was far away from anything my group of friends would ever stumble across. It was a bunch of Catholic moms talking about babies. My friends and family would steer so far away from "Catholic" "mom" and "baby" that they'd be happily on their ways to China so as not to accidentally find themselves in a spot that combined them.
However, what I wasn't aware of was the fact that Facebook doesn't care about that. Facebook took a personal comment on a wall of a group that is "no man's land" to my friends and put it in the newsfeed. In the NEWSFEED.
Everyone then had the chance to see my comment of comfort. It was originally meant to reach out to another mother who had lost her child an felt secluded in her grief. I wanted her to know she wasn't alone, so I said something along the lines of, "I'm the mother of a baby in Heaven, too. Our little saints are playing together on the lap of Our Lady, I bet!"
Several minutes later, I got a private message from a friend of mine. She asked me about the comment and I immediately felt like someone had walked in on me in the shower.
My mind began racing...
If she saw it, who else saw it? Is John going to get these questions from our friends? Is John going to be MAD that I posted this on Facebook? Oh God... did anyone of his family see it? Will anyone else send me questions? What am I supposed to say to this one? And why does Facebook have to notify her that I'd already read the dang question?!
Before bothering to respond to her e-mail, I called John. I explained the situation and asked how he wanted me to handle it. After all, this was a mutual friend. What I said to her had the capacity to reverberate through our friends and back to him. He might not be able to push the situation out of his mind so easily.
His response surprised me. He said, "Answer her however you want to. Whatever makes you feel better because you're the one handling it. I really don't care how you respond."
Now try not to bristle at "I don't care how you respond." I don't think he meant that in a harsh or demeaning way.
I repeated that his family might find out... his Mom. I didn't think she would from that basic exchange, but it was a possibility, and if he still said that he didn't care what I did after thinking about it in those terms (moms tend to paint a black and white picture for us better than most things), I could trust he really meant it.
Apparently he did, because he still gave his stamp of approval even then.
I went back to my computer. How do I respond to her? I didn't know. On the one hand, I wanted so much to tell someone else about Myla's existence, but on the other, I didn't want to share something so personal. I honestly didn't know what to do, so instead of answering her, I went through my newsfeed to clear out any possible reference to miscarriage I could find.
Finally, I went back to her message. I was back in control of my feelings, so I could respond logically. I trusted this particular friend, so I explained in very simple terms that yes, John and I had been expecting in July and I had miscarried around the 5th or 6th week. I also explained that we weren't really making that information public, but I thanked her for sending me the message. It really did mean a lot.
She quickly responded with love and support. I felt better that another person was pulled into the circle that knew Myla existed. She was such a blessing, and I sometimes ache that more people aren't aware of her. However, I do fear what knowledge of her existence would bring.
Questions that I'm ill-equipped to handle. Questions that would make me cry. Questions that would tear me apart and leave me pounding my fists into the floor.
Disbelief that she was real. At 5 or 6 weeks, she's nothing, after all, right? Society tells us she's nothing. Society assures us that my sweet little baby is completely inconsequential.
And the list drags on.
So for today, I reposted a few things and commented on a few others, but I kept my tone ambiguous. Instead of posting Myla's story, I posted things "in solidarity with" or "together with" others who have shouldered this cross. Folks seeing my posts could easily think they were akin to wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness though I never had it myself. It was my safe way of publicly spreading awareness without opening the door to something I'm not ready to handle.
Again, I know this might come as a surprise to you readers who see my most personal thoughts on a routine basis, but I am just not this forthcoming with many people. Behind the safety of my monitor, I can vent with the knowledge that none of you will ever be able to treat me differently or judge me harshly because of what you read here.
Truth be told, in real life, I'm scared. Very, very scared. I like being in control... in charge... even-keeled. Being upfront about things so sensitive and emotional for me... it's just not something I'm good at. And for as much as those horses want to call out Myla's name from the rooftops and share my experience with other women who might be going through (or will go through) miscarriage, I am not strong enough to handle it at this point. I feel selfish and weak for admitting that, but it's the truth.
I do hope to one day be able to tell other people about Myla. She is a blessing, and I want to share her with others - especially family and friends.
I just don't know when (or if) I'll ever be ready to do so.
For those of you who have endured miscarriage, did you ever tell family/friends? If you did, when and how did you go about doing it?
Remembrance Day 2013
I spent a pretty good portion of this weekend caught between two worlds. The first was created entirely by you fine folks. My inbox was full of pictures, poems and stories. The depth of love you each testify to cannot be understated. I was so touched and humbled by the images you chose to share. I sorta felt like Frank Warren from Postsecret (or what I assumed he'd feel like). Each item shared was like a tiny peek into the heart and soul of the person who sent it in. My heart was greatly moved by each and every one of you.
I only chose to show names along with the photos. I figure that if you'd like to share your personal stories, you may do so in the comments. I left out last names and birthdays as well (given that many of these children were born into Heaven before ever being born upon earth).
Bless each and every one of you. No doubt these little saints hear our prayers and feel our love. May we constantly feel their pull on our soul as they gently lead us after Christ to our forever home.
Quick heads up...
The blog community CatholicSistas has a Remembrance Day linkup. Check it out and participate there!
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