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.
Sisters of Life Need Help!!!
I'm sharing this with all of my readers in the hopes that these wonderful Sisters and the work that they do is not only helped along through your generous donations, but also your prayers!
Please keep these beautiful women and the cherished families they help in your daily intentions. We are blessed to count these brides of Christ among our own.
Dear Friends and Co-workers of Life,
'Emmanuel', God is with us. As we prepare to welcome the Christ child anew in our hearts this December, we are welcoming the new life around us in the women we serve. It is our desire that as they have courageously chosen life for their child, they may know the joy of Christ's presence and loving support, so often through the hearts of others. And that they may know truly, God is with us!
We are organizing our December 15, 2012 Christmas party for the women we serve and their children, and sending out some gift ideas for anyone who is interested. We have added websites for your convenience but you are certainly not limited to using them. Thank you always for your prayers and generosity!
We need shopping bags! We always need big bags with handles to give to the women when they stop by. We fill them with maternity clothes and baby clothes, etc***
T-SHIRT BAG - PLASTIC- CLEAR - 90121 Store Supply Warehouse: Your Source for Retail Supplies and Store Displays 9801 Page Avenue | St Louis, Missouri 63132 | Phone: 800-823-8887
All gifts need to be delivered by Monday December 10th, 2012.
For shipping purposes this is our address:
Sisters of Life
257 East 71st Street
New York, NY 10021
Questions concerning drop offs contact: (212) 737-0221
Any other questions and concerns contact: (347) 843-8900
We are so grateful to you for all your sacrifices, big and small, for our mission of building a culture of life.
In Christ Our Life,
The Sisters of Life
Judge Not or Ye Shall be Judged
Judge a tree by it's fruits, man!
I got an e-mail last night from a friend of mine. We had been discussing the current LCWR review. He was under the impression (as so many are) that the Vatican was trying to stamp out the personal freedoms of poor, innocent nuns just trying to live our their vocation serving their communities.
I admit I got rather heated at the thought of these women being pitied as a result of the media's false stories of heroism in the face of the big, bad Vatican. These women should never - EVER - be held up as the gold standard for Catholicism. The women in question shouldn't even be held up as a bad example of Catholicism. Many have given up being Catholic long, long ago and just haven't 'fessed up to it yet. Thus, use them as a bad example of Protestantism. Please leave the word "Catholic" out of their mess.
Anyway, this friend chided me for my harsh words. He quoted the oft repeated (and incredibly misunderstood) line from Matthew 7: "Judge not lest you be judged."
I've already sent this friend an e-mail detailing my feelings on the matter (candidly as I'm apt to do). However, I felt this a topic very necessary to broach with the general population as this quote is so often used by people in an attempt to bow out to political correctness.
In my opinion, it's nothing more than an excuse to hide one's insecurities behind a veil of false nicety.
Let's say my mother is driving a car. We're about to take a curve too harshly. Considering there's a canyon to the left of us, if she continues speeding, we're likely to tumble into the abyss.
Do I refrain from telling her to slow down because I'm afraid I might hurt her feelings for criticizing her driving?
No. I like my life.
Instead, I'd say, "Hey Mom, you need to apply the brakes because if you don't, we're likely to take a tumble neither one of us will enjoy."
Would I be judging my mother to be a bad driver? No.
Would I be judging her behavior to be bad? Yes.
Might she feel as though I'd judged her to be a bad driver? Yes, it's a possibility.
If she feels as though I've passed a negative judgement on her, does that mean I have? No.
Even knowing that she might have her feelings hurt as a result of my criticism, should I refrain from suggesting she slow down? NO.
As I've said in previous entries, I simply do not have the personality to sit on the sidelines while someone is acting in a way that is either harmful to self or others. I can't. I automatically put a familiar face on these folks and my decision is made - political correctness be damned.
That is exactly what we are asked to do as Catholics. The quote "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is often given as a means to stifle this responsibility. However, if we read juuust a little bit further, we'll come to understand that this misrepresented quote (found on everything from billboards to memes to T-shirts) means something much different than the sound byte it's utilized as.
Here is the quote in its entirety (from the New American Bible, so the wording is slightly changed):
Jesus said to His disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” Matt 7:1-5
In other words, use your God-given intellect to discern judgement. It isn't necessarily meaning we should condemn, but it's certainly charging us with the responsibility of properly judging all things with equality.
In fact, there are quotes all over the Bible specifically commanding this of us.
In the gospels, Luke echoes Matthew in Chapter 6 with "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."
John (7:24) relays Jesus saying "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteously."
In Proverbs (3:21), "Preserve sound judgement and discernment."
In the Letter of St. Paul to the Phillipians (1:9-11), "And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."
And my favorite (also from Luke 6) stating, "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
"See the good that we do and give glory to God."
That being said, we have a Christian responsibility to judge that which is presented to us in this world... ESPECIALLY when that which is presented wreaks of evil. We must not allow such evil to continue spreading as a cancer. The Body of Christ - OUR spiritual body - must be protected. If we remain silent as these "religious" continue to misinform, polarize and confuse the general population, we commit a sin of commission. We allow a greater evil to exist both within our ranks, and within ourselves through our silence.
This is exactly how the atrocities of WWII were accomplished. Sure there were plenty of folks who disagreed with the Nazi ideals. However, too many were silent for too long.
First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I, for one, cannot endure such silence. I cannot wither away behind a false veil of "live and let live" when that includes allowing misinformation to fester and spread to my friends, family and children. No. It is my duty as a Christian to call evil out where it is and shed the light of truth upon the dishonesty and willful desecration of the Faith.
And those Christians among you who read this (be you Catholic or otherwise), this is your duty as well. We must work together to bring the light of Truth to others. We must not allow the lies, the half-truths, the confusion to tear souls away from Christ.
That beautiful, wonderful, amazing-in-every-way woman I'm standing with is Sister Vincent. Those of you who have followed this blog may remember her from my Mac Nun Memories entry. More than a few of you ended up asking me if I named my son after her, and I honestly think I did! But shhh... we'll never tell John that, okay? :)
Anyway, Mary and I took a trip down memory lane today.
With our elementary school, Incarnation, closing this June, the admin scheduled an open house that invited all alumni and past teachers to walk the halls one last time. Truth be told, we ended up having a blast and got some great pictures!
We were just wrapping up a conversation with Sister Pat, our old principal, when she asked for my son's name. I said "Vincent" and admitted that I'd named him for Sister Vincent. We all then wondered aloud if Sister Vincent might make an appearance. Not a minute after that, Sister Vincent walked through the doors. As Mary said, the only way it could've been better planned is if birds had flown in to announce her. Ha ha!
We rushed over to greet her with hugs, smiles and excited babbling. Oh my goodness, I can't even properly explain how overjoyed I was to see her! I know Mary was just as excited. I almost felt bad for all the other Inky alumni who couldn't make it on Saturday, because they ended up missing out on seeing her!!!
Oh, thank goodness you talked some sense into me, Mar!!! I'd've been SO jealous had you seen her without me!
She hasn't changed a bit. She remembered Mary and I fondly, and didn't even need us to introduce ourselves. I wasn't altogether surprised. Like I mentioned in that Memories entry, she poured her heart and soul into teaching and really got to know her students incredibly well. She cared about all of us, so it's no surprise that she took a piece of us with her for safe-keeping. :) What an absolute blessing she was today!
And it's doubtful she even registers what a joy it was to see her. She's so unassuming. So incredibly sweet. God knows how to pick 'em, that's for sure!
Holy Backhand, Batman!
"In short, not only does the Administration not comprehend Catholic moral reasoning and the full-meaning of the principle of religious liberty, it does not even understand the basic economics of health-care insurance. "
Click HERE to read the rousing statement the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist issued regarding Obama's lack of compromise on the HHS Mandate. It hurts so good!
If I hadn't been called to a marriage vocation - I'd've been one of those fresh-faced college kids joining their ranks. These aren't your typical sisters - they're NUNS!
And while you're at it, bask in the united front of US Bishops who have (finally) unanimously denounced this mandate. Don't look now - it seems like we're beginning to act like the Church Militant!
In the brilliant words of my newest favorite blogger (from whom I stole this picture and subsequent statement):
When any creature that normally takes half a century to form a complete statement starts a united effort to destroy your plans, think twice about your own brilliance.
I'm about 90% sure the above quote is a variation on commentary regarding the Ents of LOTR finally joining in the war against Saruman. Regardless, it works!
MAC Nun Memories
When I was a child, I was surrounded by Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary... better known as "Mac Nuns" to us Inky folks.
They were my principals, teachers, librarians and mentors. Two, in particular, were the models of what I thought every sister should be: Sister Vincent and Sister Miriam.
Sister Vincent was our 2nd grade teacher. I say "our" because she got my two older siblings and at least one of my younger two. Without a doubt, she was everyone's favorite teacher. She did "Popcorn Fridays" in which we'd be allowed to watch a movie and eat popcorn if we'd been good the whole week. She was active in the school yard, teaching girls how to jump-rope or hopscotch. She was brilliantly patient and never got annoyed with the ridiculous amount of questions kids would throw at her. Finally, she was extremely generous and simply couldn't be outdone in how much she'd do to ensure her children were well-taught and loved.
It was in her class that I came to learn that prayer wasn't just for bedtime or Mass, and it was in her class that I prepared for and came to understand Reconciliation.
Anyway, we were learning about money (coins and dollar bills). Every Wednesday, she'd allow us to "purchase" items from her shop (coloring books, rosaries, small toys) with our little cardboard coins. It was to teach us the value of money (as well as to addition and subtraction). Well, on the Wednesday before Mother's Day, she replaced the toys with "gifts for Mom" type things. Flowers, a ceramic vase, oven mitts, etc. I was almost besides myself. On the chalkboard ledge (which is where she showcased her items), there was a beautiful, oblong ceramic vase. It was a grayish blue with the most delicate roses encircling it. I'd never seen anything so wonderful, and I knew without a doubt that I wanted to give it to my Mom for Mother's Day.
Kinda like this, but mine was way prettier.
Before she "opened her shop" she told us to pray to the Blessed Mother for the proper gift for our moms. I was so worried that someone else would choose the vase for their mother that I prayed VERY SPECIFICALLY for that vase. I remember distinctly asking Our Lady to let me "go first" so I could snag the vase before anyone else.
I didn't know if I was allowed to ask for that kinda stuff, because I felt a little selfish, but in my mind, that vase already belonged to my Mom and I just had to figure out a way to beat the other kids off with a stick. Plus, Sister Vincent had said it was "OK" to pray for specific things, so I figured, "May as well give it a go!"
So pray I did, and before I even finished my Hail Mary, Sister Vincent called my name to choose first. Can you believe that?! I knew the Blessed Mother was responsible for picking my name from the hat first, but wow. I thanked her the entire way up to the front of the classroom where I bypassed everything else to pluck that beautiful vase from its ledge. For the rest of the day, I carried that sucker around like a prize. I don't think I waited until Mother's Day to give it to my Mom, either. I'm pretty certain that as soon as I saw her after school, I shoved it into her hands with the proudest grin ever. Ha ha.
For a few years afterwards, I'd see that vase sitting near the window in the kitchen. It collected dust and was never really filled with flowers (save for the paper ones I'd make now and again). That's okay, though, because it was still beautiful in my mind, and it represented more than just a gift to my mother. It was a gift FROM my Mother. Divine Providence in the making - I prayed to the Blessed Mother for the gift of the vase so I could then pass along that blessing to my Mom.
Ha ha - the power of the Hail Mary.
Then there was Sister Miriam. Sister Miriam was a much older sister who basically ran our guidance department.
God bless that woman. I honestly thought she was our version of Mother Teresa. Still do, honestly. She was gentle, quiet, and probably the most empathetic person I've ever been blessed to know.
On her wall, she had a poster that somehow etched itself into my memory. It was bright yellow with a little red gift box in the corner. The words "Children aren't clay to be molded, they're presents to be unfolded" took up the majority of the foreground. I remember reading that and thinking "Wow! All grown-ups ever try to do is tell us what we can or can't do. No one ever asks us what we think. No one ever tries to see who WE are. When I'm a grown-up, I want to unfold children."
As an educator, that lesson has always been with me. Sister Miriam exemplified it daily, and I remember as a child wanting to be just like her when I grew old. Truthfully, I always wanted to be exactly like Sister Miriam and my grandmother when I was older. Ha. They were my models of "how to be an old person." Ha ha ha.
Anyway, I adored Sisters Vincent and Miriam. They were much of the reason that I, myself, wanted so badly to become a nun as a child. I loved them so much that I wanted to be just like them.
Oh my goodness...
"I loved them so much that I wanted to be just like them."
I just realized something.
I loved those wonderful sisters and respected them with every fiber of my being. What, then, can I say of Jesus? What then, can I say of the Blessed Mother? Can I honestly say the same of them?
Do I love Jesus / Mary so much that I want to be just like them?
Shoot... didn't realize that was going to be the fruit of this reflection.
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