LBM - I See What Ya Did There, God!
Many of us take part in the Catholic tradition of picking a patron saint for the year. Some of us even use the lovely Jen Fulwiler's' Saint Generator to do it!
I typically choose a saint along with my Religious Education students on the first day back from Christmas break. For 2014, however, I did not do that. This year, God had a specific patron in mind for me, and it took me until this week to finally appreciate the wisdom of His choice.
As I wrote back in January, a friend sent me a St. Philomena prayer card out of the blue. Just that weekend, I'd laughed at the idea of St. Philomena being my patron because I couldn't fathom why God would stick the poor girl with the likes of me. However, getting that card made me realize that was precisely who God sent for me.
So here I am in December - almost a full year later. I've kept her card and medal next to my computer this whole time, still not completely sure why God would choose to have this sweet, chaste young girl for my intercessor.
Some of you are aware that I have my Religious Education students give oral reports on their patron saints. I have them choose patrons for each semester, and their projects were due this past Tuesday.
One of them had chosen St. Philomena.
Now I know the story of St. Philomena pretty well, but for some odd reason, I never knew what she was considered the patroness of. As part of her report, my student explained to the class who she was partial to.
Does anyone here want to take a guess what my dear Saint Philomena is patroness of?
Patroness of the Youth with predilection for babies and children.
Protectress of young married couples, many times giving the joys of motherhood.
Assists and protects expectant mothers.
Comfront of the afflicted and imprisoned.
The solace of the suffering and sick.
Consoler of afflicted mothers who invoke her for material or spiritual help for their children.
Great helper of students and those who sit for examinations.
When invoked she encourages many conversions.
Conversion of sinners and return to the sacraments.
Assists priests in their work.
For all Spiritual and temporal problems.
There is no case too trivial or unimportant to concern her.
She exhibits her greatest patronage towards her devotees by leading them to the love of Our Lord and Our Lady.
Patroness of the Living Rosary.
Protectoress of the Children of Mary.
= Gina turning in her Cardinal Dolan fangirl card.
Remember this past March when the big kerfluffle was caused by gay pride groups during the St. Patrick's Day parades in NY and Boston? Yeah... things are going to get a whole lot more kerfluffle-y now that Cardinal Dolan decided to come out with this.
If this isn't confusing to folks, I don't know what is.
I respect Cardinal Dolan as a priest; I do. I just don't understand his desire to appease and coddle. Loving thy neighbor does not include sanctioning public celebration of his or her sin.
Then again, with the way we've allowed the celebration of St. Patrick to be turned into an excuse to celebrate lewdness, intoxication and common brawling, I guess we shouldn't be too surprised when the door's been left open to more moral degradation.
But still, this (coupled with the cause for Venerable Fulton Sheen) is incredibly, INCREDIBLY disappointing.
3rd Blogiversary (A Week Late!)
So I completely forgot about my own anniversary last week. Whoops!
It was three years last Saturday that I've been sharing my life with you fine people. That means it's been three years since many of you have begun sharing your lives with me as well.
I'm incredibly blessed by each and every one of you (silent and not so silent). You have validated my desire to chase after God, and you've supported me and shown me such compassion and understanding. You've shared prayer with me, allowed me to share prayer with you, and you've been willing participants on this adventure.
My thanks. Know my prayers are said with you tonight. I'll be soliciting St. Germaine Cousin's intercession. In case you forgot, she's my favorite saint and the one I entrusted this blog to three years ago.
The Sky Isn't Falling, Folks
Does anyone else feel a bit like characters in a Chicken Little book? Instead of the sky falling, I am constantly hearing "The Church is falling! The Church is falling!" from a swelling underbelly of paranoid Catholics and a growing army of gleeful anarchists.
If you take a look at the media, you'd think the Church was at death's door!
Relax, folks. I assure you, the Church isn't going anywhere. Remember that whole business with Peter getting renamed in front of the giant cave that devoured infants?
Let me refresh your memory, then. Since all four of the Gospels were pretty clear about this, it's obviously important enough for folks to understand.
Once upon a time, Simon (meaning "reed") was following a cool guy named Jesus. Simon wasn't super smart, he certainly wasn't very rich, and he didn't hold major sway in the community. That was okay. He wasn't interested in being the smartest guy in the room. Money didn't hold any power over him, and he didn't aim to have folks do his bidding. He was just a guy who loved Jesus and was willing to follow Him wherever He went - up to and including the Gates of Hell.
That's right, folks! Simon followed Jesus to the Gates of Hell! Believe it or not, this place actually existed in his time. It was located in Caesarea Philippi, and today, it looks like this:
What you're looking at is a giant cave that was carved into a massive chunk of stone. In fact, this giant stone mass housed several caves which, at the time of Jesus, would have been temples dedicated to various deities.
This particular one, however, was dedicated to Pan, god of desolate places (being a lonely little farmer / herder dude isn't the best diety-gig to have). Because his temple had a bit of water running through it, folks would come and sacrifice their infants over the cliff to him where they would either drown or die of blunt force trauma. Thus, because of the grisly sacrificing of such innocence, it was likened to the gates of Hades (even by the Romans).
So Simon followed Jesus all the way to Caesarea Philippi to stand before this giant stone structure that signified death and complete desolation. It was here that Jesus asked a series of silly questions. I'll let the Bible talk from here:
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Good old Simon. His birth name meant reed, something easily bent or even broken by the passing breeze.
Now, however, Jesus blessed him with the name that translates to "large rock." Jesus didn't change Simon's name because He was impressed with Simon's knowledge of Scripture. He didn't change his name because He liked how sinless Simon was. He didn't even change his name because of how faithfully Simon followed Jesus all around the known world.
Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter because name changes signify divine inspiration - a deep, spiritual change that dictates a person's destiny. It's part of the reason we are given new names at Confirmation, too!
Jesus specifically changed Simon's name to Peter because He asked a question with an answer that only could've been arrived at through divine inspiration. Simon was open to the movement of the Spirit, and this is why he was chosen as the cornerstone of the Church.
On Peter's shoulders the Church would be built. When Jesus goes on and explains that He will give him (after the Ascension) the "keys to the kingdom," He was referencing Isaiah 22:22-23.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder;
For those unfamiliar, the "key" wasn't just a symbol of power the king bestowed onto his most trusted servant. The key was an actual key that could open or lock all the doors in the kingdom (grain storehouses, vaults for gold, even the very temple doors). Whoever wielded the key was given the king's authority (with his approval, of course) while the king is absent. The servant then went about doing the king's bidding by opening grain storehouses for the hungry, the vaults to pay for kingdom necessities, making pronouncements, etc.
Jesus was telling Peter that his openness to divine inspiration announced him as this highly trusted servant. And thus, on Peter's shoulders, the glory of his ancestors (the Jews) and his descendants / offspring (the Catholic Church / various sects of Christianity) will hang on his leadership. PETER is the cornerstone on which Christ's Church is built.
If you continue reading Isaiah (and I love this), the original servant spoken of is named Eliakim. Verses 24-25 speak of Eliakim's eventual downfall and the institution of another servant. This servant is Peter, and when the Lord speaks, it is Jesus who does the speaking. How awesome is that?
Anywho, Peter is set as the everlasting servant. The gates of the hell (Death) shall not prevail against the Church set forth under his guidance. Jesus entrusts this destiny to Peter because he has proven his openness to divine inspiration. Peter proves himself as the faithful, humble servant who does not put his own "wisdom" above that of God the Father.
THAT is the sign of a great servant.
So why do I bring this up at all?
Because for all the bellyaching folks are making about Pope Francis, they need to keep in mind that he is a servant. He is a servant hand-selected by divine inspiration to "keep the keys" until Christ comes back for the 2nd Coming.
You trust Jesus, right? You trust that what he said 2 millenia ago still rings true today, yes? Then quit your bellyaching and trust that when He said He wouldn't let His Church crumble, He's not gonna let His Church crumble.
The Church is His eternal bride. He's not going to forsake us. We'll be persecuted and crucified, this is true. We must, after all, follow faithfully in His Footsteps. But we must remember that with a death fashioned after Christ's comes a resurrection as well.
We have been told that the time is coming for this great persecution and crucifixion, but we're not there yet. Even if we were, your job isn't to head for the hills or apostatize. Your job is to keep your oil lamps filled and burning brightly. Your job is to be a beacon of Christ to others. Your job is to continue praying for and supporting the Church.
I am deeply saddened for and shamed by those Catholics who are renouncing the faith simply because this pope doesn't do things the way they expect. Our faith goes beyond a man in a white cassock. Our faith is the Resurrected God-Man who consents to give Himself to us as food in the Eucharist... as mercy in the Confessional... as divine royalty in Heaven.
I'm also saddened for and shamed by those who are gleefully dancing over the tears of those Catholics who mourn the loss of faith in their communities and families. Things may look bleak from where you're standing. You might delight in the passing of laws that deride the Church and force Her members to face fierce punishment and humiliation, but we know better.
We've witnessed Our Lord upon the Cross. We've seen His Divine Face, even as blood and spittle made Him almost unrecognizable. We've recognized that through this torturous sacrifice, evil was conquered and hope for our eternal inheritance was restored. Laugh now, but we are no strangers to persecution.
Know this. We are the Church that Christ founded. We are His Body, we are His Bride. He will not allow us to be destroyed.
So to you Catholic Chicken Littles running around freaking out about the state of the Church, relax. Do your part by praying, sacrificing and being the person God meant for you to be. Do not worry about the pope shirking his mantum or the local priest singing One Bread, One Body. Unless you witness an actual sacrilege or liturgical abuse happening, try not to freak out and just turn to Christ in prayer. Don't spread paranoia and upset by lamenting the terrible state the Church is in because Father So-and-So allows women to distribute Communion.
You folks know I hate that. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. But ya know what? I don't deny myself participation in the one, true and Catholic liturgy because of bone-headed mistakes. Also, even if the priest in question did it PURPOSEFULLY KNOWING he was in the wrong, I'm not going to let his sin cut off my avenue to Christ, because even if he was stained with a thousand mortal sins, Father Pro-Women Eucharistic Ministers is still Christ's representative on Earth and is able to consecrate whereas I am not.
To you Christian Chicken Littles hoping beyond hope that the evil Catholic Church is finally crumbling, sorry. You guys are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We still pray for you at every.single.Mass. You are our offspring. Do not neglect your Mother.
To those of you who are foaming at the mouth waiting to ravage the remnants of a Church on fire, don't hold your breath. Seriously.
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.
On St. Joseph's Day 2014
Joseph of Egypt and St. Joseph
[Joseph of Egypt] was the prototype of our Joseph. As [Joseph of Egypt] had been loved more than all the other children by his father, so our Joseph was loved by God the Father more than any other male creature, since He had predestined him to be the father of His Incarnate Word and the spouse of the Mother of the Son of God. Joseph of Egypt was invested by his father in a costly garment; our Joseph was adorned by the Heavenly Father with sanctifying grace...
St. Joseph as Protector of the travelling Holy Family
Oh how sad and disconsolate Joseph would become, because of Jesus and Mary! He would attempt to arrange his cloak as a roof over their heads. The Saint managed to do this with such love and skillfulness, that it seemed to Them, They were actually in a tiny hut.
St. Joseph Called "Father" by Jesus for the 1st Time
Upon seeing Joseph, He called out to him: "Father!" and then flung Himself into his arms and caressed him with His tiny hands.
More on Failure
I guess the topic of failure is not done with me yet. Given how great I am at failing, it's nice to know I'm in good company every once in a while.
After writing The Importance of Sharing Failure, and posting the status update to Facebook, I've gotten some really great feedback. As such, I've been thinking more about it and wanted to again point out that the mirage of perfection that we see online, in magazines, and on television is just that - a mirage.
The only perfection we can hope to attain is that eternal reward of union with Christ in Heaven. That is the perfection we should be running towards. What does a thigh gap have on eternal life? Do the numbers 36-24-36 mean anything in the light of Divinity? Or is it the bulging biceps that will somehow overshadow the merits of the Sacrifice of the Cross?
We all fail. It's part of our frail human natures. Even the greatest saints among us have fallen.
St. Paul spoke of the thorn in his side. He never named the sin that caused him to falter, but he understood the importance of sharing his faults so that others may benefit.
St. Augustine. Oh bless him... St. Augustine is proof that there's a chance for me yet.
Even St. Peter, himself, failed his best friend, Jesus - THREE TIMES.
We all will fail. The difference between St. Peter and Judas is that St. Peter sought forgiveness. He recognized his failing, and he sought forgiveness.
We are not perfect, folks. How lucky we are that God forgives! And yes, this ties in nicely with all the Pope Francis talk about Confession.
Run to Him. Recognize your failing as a stepping stone towards sainthood. We will all falter at some point. However, it only becomes failure if you give up and do not seek forgiveness. So long as you're still alive, you know God hasn't given up on you. Why should you give up on yourself if He hasn't?
Recognize your failings and rectify them so they become beacons of Christ's mercy. What better place to do that than in the Confessional wherein Christ wraps His arms around you and pulls you to His Sacred Heart. The absolution you hear is simply the vocalization of His beating Heart serenading you with unconditional love and boundless mercy.
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!
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.
I'm Terrible at Novenas
After Dom selflessly gifted the Christmas Creche to a mother who needed one for her family, I wanted to do something special for her in return. She simply asked for a novena to St. Monica for her children.
I was a bit anxious. I'd never successfully completed a novena before. Isn't that terrible? It's embarrassing to admit that. I've tried countless times, but on day 6 or 8 or even 9, my mind slips and I forget to say the prayers.
However, for Dom and her Christmas spirit, I would say a novena.
And I'm still trying.
I've "completed" the novena enough times that I've memorized the words and, altogether, have prayed the "full" novena 4 or 5 times.
(So I guess you're going extra prayers, Dom... lots of them - ha!)
However, I didn't do it over the specified time-frame.
So I'm trying again and starting tonight. I'm going to set an alarm on my phone that rings at my appointed time and stop what I'm doing to turn my thoughts to Dom, her children, and St. Monica.
Do any of you have this problem with novenas, or am I really the only one? Do you have any tips or tricks to better get me on board with these special prayers?
I feel like such a terrible Catholic, but novenas were never my thing. My consistency is impressively poor.
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!
Chosen by a Saint
The last few years, I've had my students do two patron saint projects - one for the first semester, one for the second semester.
In the beginning of the year, I'll explain the practice of choosing a patron saint. Really, it's the saint choosing you. :)
I have them all pray to their brothers and sisters up in Heaven. I ask them to pray to their Guardian Angels to guide their hands. Then, I have them choose a saint from a box that contains about a thousand Holy Cards (which I purchased a few years ago from a faithful Catholic family, the Bonds, whose ministry involves spreading beautiful holy cards far and wide).
I then have them work towards building a relationship with the saint who "chose" them. I have them pray and meditate on why this saint may have chosen them. What lessons did they learn from this saint's life? What characteristics was God trying to highlight by having this brother or sister guide us towards Christ?
This year, my class fulfilled the first batch of saints. However, they won't be choosing their 2nd semester saints in this manner. Instead, they're doing projects on their Confirmation saint. This left me out of the mix. I could've chosen my own saint, sure... but I didn't. I figured if God wanted me to have a patron saint, He'd send one my way.
Well don't you know...
I received this beauty in the mail on the 9th.
A wonderful prayer-friend of mine dropped this in the mail on the 3rd. Now these dates are pretty interesting, because I had a nagging voice in my head telling me to pick a saint for the year. All the bloggers were doing it, and I should have mine ready to go in time for the first week back to class after the Christmas break.
I pushed it off, though. Then, while in the ER on the 8th, I was walking through the halls when I heard the name "Philomena." I turned to the television, but whatever commercial said her name had already passed (I later found out they are releasing a movie with her name as title this year).
I thought it was odd, and even then I thought, "Oh, is that who you'd choose for me, Lord? A little girl who is way more chaste and faithful than I could ever hope to be?"
I shook my head at the cosmic joke and made my way back to my room.
The next day, I got her card in the mail.
So it wasn't a joke, after all! My sister in Heaven chased me down and insisted she walk with me for a little while as I made my way to Heaven.
I've known St. Philomena's story for a while. I've always liked it, but I never saw much of myself in her story.
I guess she begs to differ. Apparently God thinks we have enough in common that I should be looking to her for guidance this year.
So, this prayer card is the first for my 2014 office wall. I've got two sides to this wall... right and left. On the right are my regulars... holy cards, prayers and pictures that will always be close at hand.
The wall on the left is refreshed every year so new inspirations can take root. Apparently my little Saint Philomena wanted prime real estate by being first on board. :)
And yes, that's a Tigger mug. Don't judge me.
Thanks for the prayer card, Kathryn!
About a week ago, a friend of mine lamented that her 9 year old daughter was pressuring her to "be honest" about Santa Claus. She demanded to know if what her friends in school said were true. Is there really a Santa? Can he really fly around the world delivering toys in one night?
My friend had taken to Facebook in the hopes of getting a good response from us. I told her what I planned to tell Vincent one day, but I admitted it only worked if her daughter had a good grasp of who Saint Nicholas really was.
This is the first year Vincent understands what Christmas is beyond presents. This is his first year understanding who Santa Claus is. Truthfully, this is mostly my fault because I never pressed the issue. I never wanted to stress Santa over Jesus, so I never made a big deal about Santa. I never talked about him outside of "We're getting pictures with Santa."
I never threatened him with "If Santa sees you being naughty, you won't get any presents." I also never talked about Santa coming down the chimney to deliver presents to get Vince psyched about Christmas.
In fact, come Christmas morning, Vince was usually surprised to see presents under the tree at all! Ha ha.
Anyway, I figured I should frame the "Santa story" in as correct a way as possible so when it came his turn to confront me about the validity of the story, I'd have a leg to stand on.
Here is the story I wrote and have been telling Vincent the last few weeks. I'm contemplating getting someone with artistic skills to help me with illustrations so I can make a keepsake book for him.
So hey - if you guys know any good illustrators...
Nicholas - The Boy Who Would Be Santa
Once upon a time there lived a boy named Nicholas.
Nicholas loved the sea. He lived in Patara, a beautiful town with a large shipping port. Every day, Nicholas and the other children would run to the docks to watch sailors as they worked aboard ships from all over the world. These ships would bring treasures from far-away places, and Nicholas enjoyed watching the other children as their eyes glistened at all the new and mysterious goods they saw.
Nicholas also grew up loving Jesus. In fact, he loved Jesus so much that he would always try to delight Him with tiny gifts.
Once, a sailor gave little Nicholas a bunch of sweet red grapes. Nicholas quickly gave them to his neighbor, Nina, who chased him through the town trying to hug him in thanks. Poor Nicholas blushed for weeks! He had just wanted to give her the grapes because it would make her happy. Nicholas knew that making her happy would make Jesus happy; he didn’t want to be chased around town with gratitude!
So from that day forward, little Nicholas promised he’d make Jesus smile in secret.
Each time he had an extra shirt or pair of socks, he’d secretly pass them along to a friend who needed them.
If he was given special fruit or sweets from the sailors, he’d hide them in the shoes and stockings of children as they slept in their beds.
He’d even complete chores for people who seemed to be too tired – all in total secrecy!
He was like the CIA of Good Will!
All throughout Patara, people were filled with joy and gratitude because of Nicholas. Nicholas, for his part, offered all his works to Jesus. He knew that every smile was a present for Jesus, and that made Nicholas happy.
As Nicholas grew into a man, he decided to serve Jesus as a priest. He wanted to bring Jesus to everyone and teach his people to love God as much as He did. In fact, he was such a loving, holy priest that he was made a bishop! As bishop, Nicholas worked even harder to teach people about Jesus and how much Jesus loved them.
However, Nicholas was still up to his old tricks. When his people would come to him for help, he would pray to God on their behalf. Then, if he could, Nicholas would sneak out quietly to give these families the food, money or clothing they needed. All of this he would do for love of Jesus. He knew that Jesus was using him to answer the prayers of the people, and again, Nicholas felt happy.
As Nicholas got older, the people of Greece finally began realizing that their “Wonder-Worker” had been their beloved bishop all along. When Nicholas became too old to sneak out to gift people their needs, others began following his example. All over Greece, regular people began helping their neighbors in secret, just like Nicholas. And just like Nicholas, these nice and generous people offered their service for the love of Jesus.
When Nicholas was 73, he passed away, just before Christmas. His heartbroken people knew that he was going to Heaven to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with Him, so instead of crying for him, they celebrated with him.
In fact, every year, on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, people all over the world celebrate with him by surprising their families with little gifts just as Saint Nicholas had done. And on Christmas Eve, Saint Nicholas, now known as Santa Claus, still blesses the children of God in honor of Jesus, his beloved Savior.
So hey - if you know any illustrators out there, pass them my way. I really want to make this into a real book for him. :)
The Pastoral Center of the Philadelphia Archdiocese does something really cool each month. I think the Director of Liturgy, Fr. Gill, sets up a small corner of the lobby to reflect the Liturgical calendar. In May, for example, a beautiful statue of Our Lady was perched atop a column with a gorgeously embroidered Marian banner as her backdrop.
This month, a tryptych-reliquary is open and exposed so that passerby can prayerfully reflect on those saints who have gone before us. Beneath the reliquary is a placard denoting each theca's contents.
I just found the entire set-up to be beautiful.
Sorry the photos are hazy. I was snapping them with my phone.
But you still get the idea. I love that our Church has such a rich history and such beautiful sacramentals. I love even more that we have the Holy Souls who have gone before us who continuously offer prayers on our behalf. I can always rely on my Heavenly family.
May God rain down immense blessings upon the Holy Souls and bring them all closer to their Eternal reward.
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!
When I was younger, I'd read all about the various saints doing super heroic stuff.
Martyr after martyr welcomed death - joyously - to prove their love for Jesus.
Heck, there were saints who just got dealt persecution after persecution (though not to the point of death) and joyously offered it to God as an offering of love.
Now, after reading all these stories of such heroic devotion and love, how many of you wanted to get martyred or experience persecution to prove yourself?
If so, is there a particular saint whose experience and example has really resonated with you?
This was originally written on 8/1/11. However, it's back for it's yearly rounds!
Late last night, I got a phone call from a dear friend of mine. I was surprised to be getting a call from her so late, especially since she was headed out across the country super early the next morning. Before I could even ask "What's up?" she started talking excitedly about something I'd never heard of before. At first, I couldn't quite understand the words. It sounded like some sort of Spanish phrase. I kept asking her to repeat herself, but each repetition wasn't registering. Finally, I just asked her to spell it for me, and boom - Google saved the day.
She explained to me what the Indulgence was and wanted to be sure I could take advantage of it in case I was ignorant of such a gift. Isn't she the best? *Grin*
Anyway, for those of you who don't know what this particular gift is, here's a little backstory! I paraphrased most of it from the article written by Diana Serra Cary for The Catholic Hearth magazine back in 1994.
St. Francis of Assisi (father of Franciscans), when not preaching to the birds or stopping traffic for a colony of ants, spent some of his free time restoring old, abandoned chapels and churches. One of the chapels he rebuilt became known as "the Porziuncola" (meaning small portion of land). This is where St. Francis would build up his order, live and die.
It is also where he obtained for us the Portiuncula Indulgence. In 1216, St. Francis was praying in this little chapel, almost swallowed up by the sorrow he felt for the pain inflicted by poor sinners. He was praying intently for the conversion of these sinners when he suddenly felt his interior become engulfed in light. He then saw Christ and His Blessed Mother. Jesus asked him, "What do you wish me to do to help poor sinners?" St. Francis answered that he wished Jesus to grant sinners a full pardon if they came to his chapel and make a good confession. Jesus approved this wish through His Blessed Mother who smiled and nodded at St. Francis.
Happy to have been given such a priceless and unheard of indulgence, he immediately set off for the Holy Father to have it approved. Pope Honorius III was presiding over the Church at the time, and he was absolutely dumbfounded by such a seemingly outrageous request. Plenary indulgences (like this) were VERY rarely approved, and even then, only under the strictest of circumstances, typically for those serving in the Crusades.
St. Francis, however, was not to be deterred and kept petitioning the Holy Father for his approval. Swayed, no doubt, by the Holy Spirit, Pope Honorius III granted St. Francis the indulgence. He then asked St. Francis if he wouldn't like a notice that this indulgence had been granted (since he was trying to leave without one). St. Francis replied, "I need nothing more than your word. Our Lady is the parchment, Christ the notary, and the angels our witnesses!"
He decided to set the date for this indulgence to coincide with the Feast of the Chains of St. Peter in order that all sinners may be freed from the bondage of sin. How beautiful is that?
He was so excited when the first August rolled around that he cried out to the overflowing crowds "I want to make all of you go to Heaven!"
I am so glad my wonderful friend called me up to let me know of this before flying across country! For those of you who wish to take advantage of so wonderous a blessing, here are the guidelines for the Portiuncula Indulgence.
CONDITIONS TO OBTAIN THE PLENARY INDULGENCE
(for oneself OR for a departed soul)
1. Sacramental Confession to be in God's grace (8 days before or after the 1st)
2. Participation in Holy Mass and Eucharist
3. Visit to a Catholic Church followed by a Profession of Faith (Apostle's or Nicene Creed) in order to reaffirm your Catholic Identity
4. Say an Our Father to reaffirm the dignity you recieve as a child of God through Baptism
5. A prayer for the Pope's intentions in order to reaffirm your membership in the Church of which the Holy Father is the sign of visible unity.
Shrine of St. John Neumann
This is where I attended Mass on Ascension Thursday.
For those of you who are unaware, St. John Neumann was a bishop of Philadelphia and brought us some incredibly wonderful treasures in his tenure as Archbishop. He opened the door to many religious communities, founded orphanages and schools, and did his best to provide a proper education, healthcare and basic necessities to the many immigrants that made their way through our fair city.
For his great love of Christ and His Church, God bestowed upon this servant the title of Saint. Even more glorious, God worked His grace through St. John by blessing him to be among the Incorruptibles.
St. Peter the Apostle houses a shrine built in his honor. This shrine boasts a small museum of his artifacts and relics, but most importantly, this shrine houses St. John's body beneath an altar.
Enjoy the photos.
A friend of mine asked for prayers last night.
She suffered a miscarriage 10 weeks into her pregnancy. Something she said really struck me (and I hope she doesn't mind me posting it here). She said, "I was lucky because I attended Mass this morning, so my baby got that extra blessing before passing on."
Her faith is awe-inspiring.
I immediately wrote back and assured her of my prayers. I am also enlisting you wonderful readers. Please shoot up a prayer or two her way. She, her husband, and her daughter could surely use all love they can get as they wade through the coming months.
In fact, if I may, please keep all those who suffer miscarriages in your prayers. I know of at least two other women who have recently endured the pain of hearing such news. They and their families could all use support.
I'm going to post my reflection on miscarriage here. I know I've spoken of it in the past, but it never hurts to repost something of such significance. These cherished children the Lord blesses us with so briefly... they are meant for great things.
The pain of losing one (even before birth!) is palpable because for those of us lucky enough to carry life – even briefly – we carry within us the seed of divinity. The Breath of Life from the One who animates our mortal bodies takes root not just in our bodies, but in our souls.
When that Breath returns to its Creator, we cannot help but mourn the loss of Divinity. We cannot help but mourn the loss of such invaluable treasure.
But we don’t really lose these children, do we? Instead, we are given them briefly so we can gain them swiftly as saints. And maybe these little souls are given this choice, themselves, before conception. Maybe God allows them to foresee their role as intercessor and gives them the choice. Maybe He says, "Will you consent to sacrifice your life for the benefit of My Will? Will you sacrifice your earthly life so that you can help the family you leave behind make it to My Kingdom?"
And those little saints – with the wisdom of Heaven unclouded by the stain of sin – jump at the chance to acknowledge and fulfill God’s Will. I truly believe they offer themselves to His Will for the benefit of their families. They are gathered into the arms of their guardian angels and rewarded with the perfect splendor of Heaven.
And blessed are those with such radiant saints before the Throne of God. Blessed are those who mourn so acutely the same sorrow as Our Lady who mourned the loss of Her Beloved Son. I truly believe that God allows such significant loss specifically so families with special needs (either now or in the future) have their own patron saint to bring petitions before Him.
And I believe my friend is blessed to be able to see the Hand of God in this tragedy. Her faith is truly incredible to me. I am humbled and empowered by her example. May she and all those asked to endure this cross be gifted peace.
We flew down to Florida on Thanksgiving Day. It was Vincent's first ride on a plane, and I have to admit - he was incredible. Considering Mommy's first plane ride was woefully embarrassing, I was proud that Vince handled the entire adventure like a champ.
As we entered the plane, I made a little cross on the entrance hatch with my thumb and asked God to protect the staff and passengers aboard (did the same thing coming back!). I held his hand on the ascent (so did Daddy) and fed him fruit snacks to keep his ears popping in between Hail Marys. He played on the iPad most of the flight, then snuggled into my lap for his nippy-nap.
My father-in-law was there to pick us up from the airport. John, Vince and I traveled down with John's two sisters, our one brother-in-law, and our niece. As he drove us back to the house, I texted my mom to let her know we'd touched down safely. It was then that I noticed the notification that I'd received an e-mail from a friend.
I'm going to post the e-mail here with all identifying information removed. I could've died.
Seriously... I could've died reading that. I got teary-eyed myself (and I told her so!). But wow. I told her how happy I was that she'd discerned the calling of God and reaffirmed that He was chasing her down because He loved her so much. It was a nice reminder of how wonderful our Father is... how much He loves us... how hard He tries to win us all back to Himself. He lines things up in such a way that we can't help but acknowledge His Hand in everything. And what a splendid picture He painted for her! How blessed am I to have been a part of it!
I told her that her message topped my list of Things to be Thankful For. Such beautiful reminders of how much God loves us and how far He's willing to go to remind us of that love... it's just incredible.
And to use such an innocuous conversation as a small signal that He's thinking about her. Take every opportunity, folks. Everyone opportunity that presents itself is your chance to help Divine Providence along. Just open the door to communication and God will take care of the rest. Just... incredible. What an amazing Thanksgiving surprise. :)
QT Friday: Last Day and St. Michael
Best guys ever
Today is my last day of work at my current job. Starting on Tuesday, after the holiday, I begin working with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Tuesday simply cannot come fast enough. :)
However, today I am doubly grateful for my direct supervisor who has sustained me these last few years. He is a true gem and someone I was always happy to work for. His boss, too. :) My love for and appreciation of both those men are what brought me into work each morning.
Poor thing is shredded
I went on a veil buying binge Wednesday night. It was terrible. And by terrible, I mean amazing. :)
All my Garlands of Grace ones wore themselves out, and due to their verbal misstep a few months back, I've found myself Catholic-friendly vendors with exquisite products.
If you aren't already a fan, may I suggest to you the following for all your veiling needs:
Veils by Lily
A Snood for All Seasons (A Woman's Place)
Vince and Ray
My brother, Ray, bought his very first house! To celebrate, John, Vincent and I took him out for dinner. He chose a new Hibachi place near his house, so Vincent got to experience his first Hibachi!!!
He was super scared of the fire, so he kept covering his eyes, afraid that the chef was going to keep surprising him with huge bursts of flame. He got over it pretty fast, though, and happily ate his rice and noodles.
There was a brief accident before the food came out that had John, Ray and I scrambling to mop up after Vince, but otherwise, it was a great time all around!
Yay family picture!
Vincent also got to experience his first trip to the circus!!!
We have a circus that comes around every year, and John decided that this would be a good time to take Vincent. I agreed, and we were able to enjoy front-and-center tickets to a really amazing show!
I loved the acrobats the most. Vince loved the man running around in a giant hamster ball. John loved the motorbikes riding around in a steel cage.
Now that Vincent is starting to be interested in video games, John (an avid retro gamer) has been introducing him to games like Mega Man, Sonic and Zelda.
On his own, however, he's been playing another older game for nostalgia. It's called Chrono Trigger and it's actually his favorite game from when he was a child.
Anyway, one of the character's names is "Lucca." I caught my breath again when I saw that name randomly pop up as the character introduced itself. Just thought that was interesting, especially because the night before, I had had a dream in which I gave birth to a little boy. I couldn't decide if I should call him Luca or Nathan, but ended up introducing him to my brother as "Luca Nathaniel."
I've had Luca on the brain!
I got to spend an hour and a half at Adoration the other day. There is a beautiful adoration chapel near my home that has a very unique monstrance / tabernacle. The laity is encouraged to approach the Blessed Sacrament that is enclosed within the tabernacle and unhinge the doors so as to "open" the monstrance in order to view the Host.
I wasn't sure if I could approach the monstrance / tabernacle combo, because I felt as part of the laity I was not supposed to touch the sacred vessel. I asked Father Z from WDTPRS about it, and he was kind enough to dedicate an entry to answering me. That can be found here.
Anyway, considering I'm not a EMHC, I won't touch the door. So when I went to adoration and saw that the door was closed, I simply knelt before it and prayed without approaching. Christ is present regardless of if I can see Him or not.
A few minutes later, a woman walked in for adoration and opened the monstrance. I could feel her laughing at me... as if I didn't know I was supposed to open the door. She stayed for about five or ten minutes, but when she left, she said "Please make sure you close the door."
I silently nodded. I was thinking "Okay, Lord, you know I don't want to touch Your door because I don't think I'm supposed to. If you don't want me touching it either, just send someone else to do it for me."
Don't ya know about 10 minutes later, someone else came for adoration? :) God is good. I'm taking this as the sign similar to that I got last year. Steer clear of touching His sacred vessels, because even with the best of intentions, it's not His Will. For me, anyway. Ha!
Very early this morning I had a dream of St. Michael. It was very brief, but incredibly intense.
I was home with Vincent. I was on the phone with John (who was at work) trying to warn him of an approaching storm. I looked out the window, and I saw a huge tornado swirling down the road towards John (who, for some reason, was on the roof several doors down). It was sucking up buildings, trees, etc. I saw it tearing apart everything. I remember feeling intensely scared for John. I kept yelling for him to take cover.
The tornado suddenly stopped and lost its fury. I watched as the debris began spilling forth from the mouth of the once furious tornado. John, now thinking he was safe, didn't realize that the debris posed more of a threat than the tornado. I was still yelling for him to take cover when I saw him.
It was Saint Michael. I knew it the instant I saw him. He was coming down from the sky, just off from where I saw John, and he was holding his sword above his head as if he were leading a battle charge.
What's odd about how he appeared to me is that he didn't appear as a full-colored "body" like I've seen in paintings and such. Instead, he was an actual entity, but he was almost in negative... sorta like this:
Sorry for the creepy effect, but I couldn't actually make out any of St. Michael's facial features. He was enveloped in such a bright, bright light that it almost seemed to be coming out of him. It was as if he was made out of light and the armor he wore somehow clung to the light that formed him. Strange, right? I dunno. A photo-negative is the closest thing I can think of to what he looked like.
When I saw him, I felt such peace. I knew that everything was going to be okay, but I also knew that we were in for a world of chaos. He brought the knowledge that peace was coming, but before that peace, we'd be dealing with an incredibly destructive tornado of chaos.
Upon seeing him, I turned back to find Vincent. I dropped to my knees and began saying the Prayer to St. Michael over and over again. Before I could find Vincent, though, my alarm woke me up. Regardless, it was an amazing dream, and it's thus far stuck with me through the entire day. St. Michael, pray for us.
So those are mine! For more quick takes, check out Conversion Diary (and start your own!).
Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had an infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideals. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself?
Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her un-womanly and un-motherlike actions? Would you have in any way stained and soiled her with the selfishness that would make her unattractive not only to you, but to your fellow-man? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her, or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes, the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you, but even to your fellow-men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?
Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?
Today's blog entry today brought to you by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. :)
Enjoy some more of his love for Christ's Church:
Prophecies I - My History
This series deals with visionaries not yet approved by the Church. Under the umbrella of private revelation, it is up to each individual to decide for him/herself the truth of these claims. I am not suggesting you believe or disbelieve. I'm suggesting that the messages contained within are important enough to warrant an open and honest discussion. Above all, these messages deserve to be looked into with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So please read this prayer before moving on:
O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Prophecies I - My History
How to begin a post that makes you sound like a crazy person?
Holy Spirit, please guide my language.
When I was a child, I found a booklet in the back of my church. It was the story of Our Lady of Fatima as written by Sr. Lucia.
I was pretty young at this point. I had probably only just made my 1st Communion. However, I was blessed with a very fervent love of Our Lady from my earliest days, so when I saw this free booklet with such a pretty picture of her on the front, I couldn't wait to read it!
What's more, I learned that this was the story of the Blessed Mother coming down from Heaven to TALK to us! I don't think my little heart could have been more excited! I don't think I even knew that she did that sort of thing.
Anyway, this was probably the birth of my interest in visionaries. For many years, Fatima and Lourdes were the only two instances I knew of that Our Lady appeared. However, I could read about them / hear of them over and over again. The idea of the Blessed Mother coming down and speaking to her children filled me with so much joy, and it made perfect sense. Of COURSE she'd want to come down to give us little lessons of faith. Of COURSE she'd want to bequeath to us special graces in the form of "proofs" and healing waters.
It wasn't until I was in High School that I came to know Our Lady wasn't just keeping busy in Fatima and Lourdes. She was running all over the place!!!
One particular set of apparitions really drew me in - those of Garabandal. At first, I sort of rolled my eyes and poo-poohed the idea of the Blessed Mother being among us in this generation. It took me a long time of reading the revelations and learning the back stories of the visionaries before I finally said, "Okay... there may actually be something to this."
So I delved into the messages more and more. Considering I wasn't exactly a Catholic at this point, the messages and revelations were merely interesting suggestions for what the future might hold... fairy tales that were more interesting than the scientific theories only because Our Lady was the central character.
I didn't exactly "disbelieve" the revelations. I simply expected them to be in the far-off future. However, something always gnawed at me on that score. I felt an urgency that I wrote off as foolishness.
"Gina," I'd tell myself, "you're being ridiculous. Stop believing everything you read."
So I'd ignore the urgency and convince myself that the messages of repentance and prayer weren't really for me so much as for future generations. I mean, I could pray a thousand times a day and the effects wouldn't be for me so much as for my great-great-great-grandchildren, ya know?
All of that changed, however, just before my reversion.
I learned of a reported series of apparitions by Our Lady in the United States. At this point, I'd become well-versed with the various apparitions around the world. However, this particular set interested me because of the close proximity and the relative directness of the messages.
The more I read, the more began to question my own understanding of Catholicism. The more I read, the more I realized that I couldn't escape the fact that Our Lady was trying to speak to ALL of her children and that we needed to start listening YESTERDAY.
In an effort to console myself, I began looking for discrediting information. Some of the messages seemed to conflict with one another, and the wording just seemed... off. However, I figured that the messages were important enough to warrant an open, honest heart, so I prayed a rosary for discernment (falling back on the lesson I learned in that Fatima booklet regarding the power of the Rosary to those who use it to call upon Mary's intercession).
That rosary became my Conversion Rosary.
With it, I felt a fire return to my soul. Our Lady heard my call for help and rushed to my aid. She also obtained from the Holy Spirit discernment for my disbelieving heart.
The next day, I learned that the Bayside prophecies were rejected by the Church. I fully believe that Veronica, the visionary, was granted great graces by Our Lady, but I also believe that those surrounding her (even another visionary!) began using their privileged place for their own purposes, thus sullying the reputation of ALL Bayside prophecies.
As a result of this, I ceased my research regarding Bayside (now content that there was too much contrary information to find the complete Truth). I then asked Our Lady to direct me somewhere to really hear her messages.
I knew at that point she wanted to teach me something. I just had no idea what it was. So, at a loss, I turned to both her and the Holy Spirit.
For the first time in my entire life, I actually prayed to the 3rd Person of the Trinity. I never really understood His Purpose (even AFTER all my Confirmation classes). That's embarrassing to admit, but it's true.
Up until my reversion, the Holy Spirit was always just "that Guy." Like an extra piece in a jig-saw puzzle, I knew He fit, I just weren't sure what I got wrong that made it seem that He didn't.
So I prayed. Discernment and wisdom were what I prayed for. I wasn't looking for a direct line to His vast stores of knowledge, but I knew that He'd be the one able to lead me to the information I was looking for.
Within 24 hours of that SOS to the Holy Spirit, I was given direction. It happened so quickly that I actually felt ashamed for not having spoken to Him sooner. I thought, "Wow... everyone's so wrapped up in speaking to God the Father or Jesus that You must get forgotten a lot. Yet here You are, so eager to help that You fall over Yourself to answer my tiny request. I'm coming to You for the big stuff from now one!"
Seriously, though, we would do well to remember that the Holy Spirit is the "Mighty One" spoken of in the Divine Mercy chaplet. He is the one who endows us with special gifts and graces. He is the one tasked with protecting and guiding us while we remain on earth.
Anyway, I was granted two websites of incredible value. The first was a list of saints and beati who were granted the grace of visions and locutions. The second was the online version of St. Faustina's Diary (which truly grounded and directed my blossoming faith).
To be continued in Prophecies II - The Warning
Father Carlos began with a presentation regarding the Biblical history of relics, how they are used, and how we can properly venerate these proofs of God's grace among us.
It was - verbatim - the same presentation he gave last time (which makes perfect sense considering he's given this about a bazillion times at this point). Regardless, I still learned something from it and felt completely uplifted upon its completion.
There had to be about 800-1000 of us in attendance. Three times, Father asked us to sardine ourselves further and further into the pews so more people could fit. Even with our sandwiching, it was standing-room only. For our part, no one complained and everyone was happy to suffer the invasion of personal space for a brief half-hour.
At the close of his presentation, Father directed the massive throng of people to the gymnasium of the parish school. The relics had been set up there so people would have more room to mill about.
This was new for me as the last time I'd attended veneration, it was held in the church. Granted, St. Agnes is a much, MUCH larger church, so there wasn't a question of space. However, I have to say that I truly feel as though something was lost from this experience because we had removed ourselves from the sacred space of the church.
Within moments of stepping outside the church to move ourselves to the gymnasium, folks were lighting up cigarettes and pulling out their cell phones. I admit that I, too, began talking with my friends from Philly. However, it was a subdued chatter at this point. Folks were still being respectful of one another, and the excitement from what we were about to experience was fresh.
Unfortunately, all that was checked at the door as we slowly filed into the gym. This is where I started to cringe.
Being a gymnasium packed with several hundred people, it got very hot very fast. Also, since there were only 168 relics for the several hundred of us to share, the lines weren't exactly the speediest. There was also a lack of organization regarding line direction which led to some folks accidentally "butting" in front of others.
Slowly, the nasty remarks began trickling in. I honestly believe that had we been in a church, this wouldn't have happened.
Again, had we been in a church, I doubt these comments would have surfaced (or at least wouldn't have surfaced so loudly and so angrily).
Being in front of the Blessed Sacrament (even while enclosed in the tabernacle) seems to remind us that we are in the Presence of the Divine. Relics, while not divine, are instruments of Divine Power. Though nothing of themselves, God has chosen to utilize relics in a way that highlights the lives of His elect so that we may better follow their example.
Anyway, I feel as though we lost sight of that due to our environment (a lackluster gymnasium). Thus, idle chatter and rather rude statements spread like wildfire.
I realized that I, too, was beginning to take part in the chatter. So, to distance myself from the behavior, I left the group of friends I'd arrived with in order to remove myself from the temptation. Mind you, this was through no fault of my friends. I was the one instigating most of the chatter, so I figured it'd be best for both myself and them for me to meet up with them after they'd been able to experience everything for themselves.
I was able to read Conchita's Diary in full while in line to venerate the "Biggies" of the exposition. They included:
There was also a piece of Our Lady's veil, but I forgot to take a photo of it as I was too busy praying. *Blush* I remembered in time for the True Cross, though, because I knew folks would want to see that one!
Anyway, I went from table to table, touching my medals / rosary to the various reliquaries in order to create 3rd Class relics for a few family and friends who were unable to attend. I snapped a few photos of the exposition for the rest of you in an effort to coax you into requesting one for your own parish. Even though this experience wasn't as favorable as my original one, it was still extremely worthwhile and beautiful. I still learned so much, and I'm sure the graces I gained from being present with so many of God's elect steeled my soul and gifted me a deeper appreciation and love for all His many blessings.
Enjoy the slideshow!
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