by Sharon Clossick - click for more info
Saint Maria Goretti has always been, in my mind, the epitome of forgiveness.
At this point in time, most people know her story. She was a poor girl from a poor family. Destitute, they had to give up their home to work with (and then for) another family, the Serenellis. Shortly after, Maria's father passed away from malaria, leaving her mother and siblings at the mercy of the Serenelli family.
For several years the Goretti family worked for the Serenellis. However, even before her father passed away, Maria (then only nine) had found herself on the receiving end of sexual advances from Alessandro Serenelli. She thwarted his attempts to sully her purity several times, and each time was threatened with death if she uttered to anyone his treachery.
However, at 11 years old (she was 2 months shy of her 12th birthday which is why so many folks incorrectly list her as a 12 year old), he found her alone after her mother and siblings had gone to work in the field. Maria was home taking care of her infant sister, Teresa. Maria had just placed Teresa down for a nap when Alessandro approached her - again - with the intent to force her into sex. He brandished a 10 inch dagger with which to subdue her. Maria, however, would not allow his perversion to tarnish her chaste purity.
Crying out, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it! You will go to hell." Maria tried to fend off his lustful advances. Enraged, Alessandro choked Maria. This, too, proved futile as Maria insisted she'd rather die than endure the desecration of her body. As a result, Alessandro stabbed her body 11 times times.
He left her bleeding on the floor of her kitchen to die alone, agonizing in pain as his dagger cut through her throat, heart, lungs and spinal column. Yet she attempted to crawl to the door to call for help. Alessandro (who was asleep upstairs) heard her cries of "Mother, I am dying!" and went back to finish his work. He stabbed her 3 more times - 14 in all.
Alessandro then fled upon hearing little Teresa cry out. Alessandro's father was awoken by the baby's cries and went down to chide Maria for being negligent. However, he found her bruised and bloodied body instead, and his frantic calls for help brought her mother running.
Maria was rushed to the nearest hospital where doctors, incredulous that she'd survived with such terrible wounds, did their best to help her. She underwent immediate surgery (without anesthesia), but doctors knew she would not last. A priest was brought in to perform Last Rites. It was to him she expressed her forgiveness of Alessandro, citing Christ's forgiveness upon the Cross saying, "I, too, pardon him. I, too, wish that he could come some day and join me in heaven."
It was this forgiveness that finally caused Alessandro to amend his ways. Having been convicted of murder and imprisoned, he spent many years brooding in his cell. However, no doubt through Maria's intercession, God allowed him the grace of seeing little Maria in her glorified state. In this dream, Maria handed Alessandro 14 lilies, one for each of the wounds he inflicted upon her. Each of these lilies burst into flames of forgiveness as he took them, one by one, from her outstretched hand. From that moment forth, Alessandro changed his life and sought to live out the same love of Christ that Maria had taught him through her pure and holy example.
Upon his release from prison, Alessandro went straight to the home of Maria's mother. When she opened the door, he flung himself at her feet, tearfully begging for her forgiveness.
Again, modeling the holy example of her own saintly daughter, Assunta said, "Alessandro, Marietta forgave you, Christ has forgiven you, and why should I not also forgive. I forgive you, of course, my son!"
The next morning, she led him by the hand to Mass where they received, together, the Eucharist.
Alessandro lived out the rest of his days in the service of monks. No doubt he is in Heaven with little Maria as she had promised so many years before.
And what a blessing that her mother and siblings were able to witness the canonization of their own. Assunta said of Maria, ""My God, I was not worthy to have such an angel!"
If only she understood that it was through her blessed example that Maria came to understand the love of the Lord. Through her witness, Maria came to love Him and strive for His Grace in all she did.
Not only were you worthy of Maria, Assunta - you helped to create her place in Heaven. May you both, together with Alessandro, forever enjoy the Beatific Vision. And may you all intercede for us still toiling below. Pray for us that we may always understand the power and blessing of forgiveness.
Today is the Feast of Divine Mercy. Not one mention of it was made in my parish. :(
The deacon gave a nice little homily that referenced the book Heaven is for Real, but nothing about Divine Mercy Sunday!
Nothing about St. Faustina and the incredible promises made by Christ to those who venerated and adored His Gift of Mercy on the Sunday after Easter!
I hope others of you had better luck than I.
However, I was still able to celebrate Christ's Mercy on my own. I participated in the worldwide novena, got myself to a confessional, and participated in the Eucharist (though I dunno if I'd go so far as to say it was a "good reception" considering I was wrangling Vincent at the time).
Anyway, I'm going to ask our pastor if we've got an image of the Divine Mercy for the parish. If not, I believe I've got a good fundraising goal for the Evangelization council. Ha!
For those of you unfamiliar with Divine Mercy, I suggest starting here. This is a relatively new Feast (but not so new that my parish wouldn't have mentioned it!). Anyway, Jesus promises a total absolution of sin and the punishments due to Divine Justice for those who observe this feast through confession and reception of the Eucharist. Considering it the plenary indulgence to end all others. Heh.
Seriously - powerful stuff and desperately needed in this day and age.
The picture itself is of Christ, His Hand raised in blessing as His Sacred Heart pours forth the Blood and water that gushed forth as His Body hung upon the Cross. When the Roman centurion lanced Him, that Blood and Water were the last blessings He imparted to us, offering every last drop of Himself for our salvation. Through His Feast of Divine Mercy, He beckons us to run to Him and steep ourselves in His Mercy. No sin is too great for His Mercy. No sin too dark that it can't be washed clean.
The gospel, of course, ties into this theme as Christ imparted Reconciliation to the Apostles. He "breathed on them" that they might receive the Holy Spirit and thus the authority to provide absolution of sins.
This reminds us of God's enduring Mercy. It is made available to us each time we humble ourselves before Him in the confessional. It is made available to us each time we accept Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. It is made available to us each time we seek forgiveness from one another - and we taste the healing power of this as we, in turn, forgive.
I sincerely hope other parishes took full advantage of this great Mercy.
And if you haven't already, might I suggest St. Faustina's Diary? I cannot even begin to describe how illuminating that was! Plus, you can read it online for free!
I was given the privilege of reading The Life of Saint Joseph as seen by mystic and Benedictine Abbess Maria Cecilia Baij. You can purchase it from 101 Foundation (as well as about a million other wonderful items).
I honestly learned so much about St. Joseph from this series of revelations. Before reading the book, St. Joseph was just a kind gentleman tasked with loving and protecting Jesus and Mary. Now... now he is so much more, and I am almost stunned with how much love and admiration I now have for him. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I didn't really ever think much of him when I'd call upon the saints!
He set me straight on that one... :) Blessed be St. Joseph, the most holy foster father of Jesus and the most chaste and loving spouse of Our Lady!
To celebrate, I'll share some of my favorite St. Joseph depictions! This first one is beautiful in that it shows little Jesus "playing" at his father's feet in Joseph's workshop. However, as the sunlight streams in, we see that the shadow young Jesus casts is a Cross. Then we realize that little Jesus is playing with three nails... indicative of the three nails that will one day pierce His Hands and Feet for our salvation.
Oh, and this one... probably everyone has seen this image of St. Joseph and little Jesus at some point or another. It's so tender that my heart just about bursts. Little Jesus is rubbing His Eyes. Was He crying? Is He just waking up? Nodding off to sleep? Regardless, strong and gentle Saint Joseph is there to hold Him, support Him and comfort Him in the most loving of ways.
How happy St. Joseph must have been to cradle that perfect Child in his arms!
How overjoyed he must have been to hear himself called "Father" by the truest Love of his life?
May all children know such love from their fathers, and may all fathers show such tenderness for their children.
Another favorite is this loving moment between St. Joseph and Jesus. St. Joseph holds the lilies that signify his purity. He casts his gaze down upon Jesus as that little God-Child looks up adoringly at His doting foster-father.
The peacefulness that emanates from this picture leaves me sleepy. I'm not kidding! I want to cuddle up against Saint Joseph and rest with little Jesus, too!
I honestly think that upon Jesus' own Death, He immediately flew into Limbo where the souls of the just awaited news that salvation had come. He flew into the depths of this Limbo and sought out first His dear father, Saint Joseph. I imagine their reunion to be something similar. Saint Joseph was probably on his knees in adoration of his Son, yet Jesus scooped him up and embraced him, happy to once more be in the arms of the father who loved him so dearly throughout his earthly life.
May Saint Joseph protect, guide and bless our fathers, and may we learn through his holy example how to love Christ better each day!
I found this through a friend of mine, Catherine, about three years ago. It is absolutely INCREDIBLE and great for kids! :) Enjoy, and may your celebration be lively, joyous and blessed!
In between running after Vincent and pulling one of my cats off the wall (no, you didn't misread that, and yes, I had to pull her off my wall) I found National Geographic's Jesus of Nazareth on TV. Interested to see where they were going with this, I kept it on as background noise only to be drawn in repeatedly by the extremely poor historical context given by supposed experts.
Just a few of the ridiculous statements given that prove these folks had no idea what they were talking about:
1. Jesus "had probably never been to the temple" which is why He "reacted so violently" towards the moneychangers.
Never been to the Temple? Are you KIDDING me?! The NT places Him there at least 3 separate times (not including the time He was "found" as a youngster). And as for His "violent reaction" might I point my dear readers to this historically accurate and Biblically sound explanation.
2. There was no Cenacle - Jesus held His Last Supper on the roof of a random building because room was probably too sparse for a group of people so large (meaning Jesus, His 12, and the various female disciples that followed Him).
Something that a lot of folks tend to miss about Jews back then is that they were just as fragmented as Christians are today. You had the upper-class Jews, the religious zealots, the Essenes, and the Jews by blood only. You had folks following John the Baptist, Jesus and probably a smattering of other folks, too. When you realize this, you then realize why that phrase from Holy Thursday becomes key to figuring out exactly where Jesus held His Last Supper.
When the Apostles are freaking out over where to hold the Passover meal, Jesus simply says "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters" we'll have our meal.
This doesn't seem like a big deal to most people. Maybe some might think "Hey Jesus... Jerusalem is packed - how in the world do you want us to spot a particular dude carrying around a pitcher of water? Are you seriously attempting to have us try to find a needle in the haystack?
Think for a quick second, though.
"A MAN will meet you carrying a PITCHER OF WATER."
Back in those times, men didn't do that sorta stuff. Drawing water from the well was a strictly female thing to do. So this wasn't a needle in the haystack goose chase. Instead, Jesus was specifically telling them EXACTLY where to go in order to find a man carrying around a pitcher of water. Only ONE place in Jerusalem would fit the bill, and that'd be (drumroll please...) the Essene quarter. Since Essenes lived a very basic (and typically celibate) lifestyle, the men were forced to take on traditionally feminine duties as the two sexes lived separate from one another. Thus, the only place in Jerusalem you'd be able to find a guy carrying water would be the Essene district.
The Essenes weren't exactly the most loved bunch of Jews. They were highly pious and did not much appreciate what they saw as a degradation of the Temple by secularism and government pressures. However, they waited with great longing for the Messiah, and were huge followers of John the Baptist. As such, they welcomed Jesus kindly and would have given Him anything requested. Thus, the Cenacle is still highly plausible and again takes care of women being present at the Last Supper.
I have no doubt that women helped with the preparation of the meal. After all, Our Lady was close by when Jesus began His Passion, so it's likely she was staying with relatives (who were very likely Essene themselves). That doesn't mean she was present for the Last Supper. It also doesn't mean that Mary Magdalene was, either (which is the point they were trying to make).
Speaking of Mary Magdalene...
3. Jesus and Mary Magdalene were an item.
Bah and humbug. This tired rubbish is so beyond played out that I'd rather listen to the Macarena a thousand times than waste my breath on this anymore. It was at that point I abruptly changed the channel.
Ah well. I noted they didn't seem to interview many Catholics. Lots of Christians, but I didn't note any Catholics. Come to think of it, I didn't note any Jews, either. For a special on a 1st century Jewish man, you'd think they'd do a better job of scouring for experts.
I was lucky enough to have my CCD class on St. Valentine's Day! How exciting that I was able to share the history of St. Valentine!
I planned a special craft to get them into both the Lenten spirit and help them understand what Valentine's Day is really about.
I was sure to wear red and I asked the class why I was wearing red for St. Valentine's Day. They all answered "Love." Now, we had JUST finished discussing liturgical colors last week, so I asked them to pull out their notes and see if they couldn't figure out why I might choose to wear red on SAINT Valentine's Day.
One of their hands shot up and she answered, "It's the color of blood. Did he give his blood?"
Slowly but surely it began dawning on them. One of my boys proudly said, "He was killed!"
I confirmed his deduction and taught them the word "martyr." I explained that martyrs are a special group of saints who died because they loved Jesus so much. I explained that in St. Valentine's time, it was illegal to be a Christian. In some parts of the world, it's still illegal, even today! The kids were floored. One chimed in "That's stupid! What if you only say good stuff about Jesus?"
From the mouths of babes...
I said that in some parts of the world, it's illegal to even mention Jesus' name because people believe that even the name of Jesus offends their god. The people in charge don't want everyone believing in Jesus when they believe only their god is important.
It was like that back in St. Valentine's period as well, but instead of an invisible god, they believed that the emperor was god (or the son of god depending on which emperor we're discussing). I likened it to everyone in the United States thinking that President Obama was a god. They shook their heads in disbelief that anything so preposterous could ever have been true.
Ah, but so it was! And in some places, so it still is! May we keep these persecuted Christians in our prayers.
With that, I told them the story of St. Valentinus (now known as St. Valentine) and why we send "Valentines" to one another. Not one of them had ever heard the history behind this feast! Can you imagine?
Anyway, as a special craft, I had them create little "Valentines for Jesus." These were half Valentine - half Lenten preparation. On each foam "heart" (they were given 10 each), I requested that they draw a picture / write a prayer or good act they could do to offer to Jesus as a show of love. After all, we are all the "hands of Christ" and what we do unto others, we do unto Christ. My class really did an amazing job exemplifying this through the choice of their offerings:
Originally I had intended them all to glue the hearts into a wreath (as you see in the original picture), but their words / pictures extended too far in some instances, so I came up with the idea of a ladder. I had them poke holes into the tops and bottoms of their hearts and they laced them together that way for a cute chain:
All in all, they turned out really nicely, and I'm really glad the kids had so much fun coming up with ways they could show Jesus they loved Him. Now they've got ideas for Lent which was a great prep for next week's Ash Wednesday lesson! Woo hoo!
Seriously - I love teaching these kids. I'm so blessed!
I received a wonderful CD from Lighthouse Media this week. It's a talk given about the Humanity / Divinity of Jesus, and I apologize for not remembering the title or speaker at present. The disk is in my car, and it's simply too cold for me to run out in my jammies to get it. :)
Anyway, the priest asked a question of the audience: Why was John the Baptist running around the wilderness, anyway? Why wasn't he at home or preaching in the middle of Jerusalem. His father, Zachariah, was a priest of the Temple, so it would've made sense for little John to have followed suit and made himself at home preaching to Jews in Jerusalem.
The priest answered that John was preaching in the wilderness due to the corruption of the Temple.
That is probably true, but it glosses over a HUGE reason of how little John found himself in the wilderness in the first place...
Everyone seems to forget that John the Baptist was only a few months older than his cousin, Jesus. The Blessed Mother visted Elizabeth, John's mother, when she, herself, was pregnant with Christ. That puts John about 4-6 months ahead of Jesus.
Anyway, if the Holy Family had to high-tail it away from Herod due to his desire to kill all young boys from birth to age 2, little John would've been a prime target, especially since he resided so close to Jerusalem (what with Daddy being a priest and all). As a result, little John was taken by his mother, St. Elizabeth, to the wilderness where she stayed with him until it was safe to return home.
However, the fact that little John escaped from the slaughter made many people very suspicious. Folks were angry and jealous that Zachariah had somehow managed to keep his son alive while theirs were cruelly murdered. They constantly would've been asking him "Where is little John? Where is that son of yours, Zachariah?" Off little John would've been sent to the caves once more to hide away until the anger passed.
John the Baptist was made quite at home in the wilderness in his early years. As Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich wrote of him, nature was his school house. The birds, flowers, elements and grasses were God's own alphabet, and little John was a quick study. He was well acquainted with his guardian angel who was sure to teach him the finer points of what would soon become his Advent message.
So yes... while there was plenty of corruption within the Temple at the time of John's preaching, that was not "why he was in the wilderness." He was in the wilderness because from a very, VERY early age, he was forced to find refuge in the wild - away from hateful eyes, vice-filled souls, and yes, the corrupt teachings of the Temple.
Pieta - by Jason Jenicke
Brace yourselves for yet another of Bl. Anne Catherine's visionary stupifiers!
While delving into the days before Our Lady's death, St. Anne saw her giving directives on what should happen to her few worldly possessions. One cloth, in particular, drew Bl. Anne's attention. This cloth had a supreme light about it, was woven of the finest materials and stark white where there wasn't large amounts of dried blood.
She was given to understand that this cloth was used by Our Lady as she cradled her Son in her arms after He was taken from the Cross. She tenderly wiped at His Blood stained Body, using her tears as cleansing salve. She lovingly removed the spittle, the sweat, and the dirt away from His Face with this cloth, which she then safeguarded as a precious relic.
Our Lady made known to Bl. Anne Catherine that this cloth was the original purificator. All cloths used since to wipe chalices are used in a similar manner. I wonder how many priests realize this! As they wipe the Chalice of Christ's Blood, they take on the role of Our Lady as she accepted the Body of her Beloved Son from the Cross. Just as they wipe away the traces of Blood and spittle, Our Lady did first as she caressed His Face and Body, allowing her tears to fall as rain over Him.
At Mass today, I could have wept as I saw our pastor using the purificator. I never realized just what that action meant until seeing it through Bl. Anne's eyes... through Our Lady's eyes.
The thought is so humbling, so moving, so heart-breaking that I could think of nothing else as I knelt after receiving. I'm so glad I found the above artwork (by Jason Jenicke, an incredible artist I found by absolute accident!). It is simply the perfect summation of my feelings - I think I'll see this image every time I see purificators now.
I realize I'm on the late side with this. With emotions running high as a result of the closings / mergers, you'd think I haven't been paying attention to anything else.
In truth, however, I've been reading about the Magi for the last several days. For Christmas, I purchased The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a collection of St. Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions.
On Thursday night, I started getting the first snippets of her visions of the Three Kings. I have to admit, I was really surprised. With all the specials I'd seen via the History Channel, I thought I had them pegged as master astronomers who only understood this "king" to be the political kind. I also thought there was a group of them, watered down through history as "3" to represent the 3 symbolic gifts presented to the Christ-child.
Boy did I learn a thing or two...
These men were, in fact, kings. Yes, they were master astronomers, but their astronomy went well beyond star-gazing for clues as to the next political uprising. Apparently, their lineage was established more than 500 years before the Star of Bethlehem came to be. God had granted 3 of their ancestors a vision which predicted that a Child would be born of a Virgin. This Child would come to rule the world and bring peace and prosperity to all who accepted Him.
The sisters then were given a promise of celestial signs that this promised Child was born. Ever since, these people looked to the stars in anticipation of the Child's birth. Unfortunately, some people believed that the practice of sacrificing children would bring about the Child's coming faster. Thousands of innocent children were sacrificed in a cruel manner (they were flayed and their blood spread throughout a temple dedicated to the Virgin).
Thankfully, at the birth of Our Lady, the 3 Kings were gifted a vision of a Virgin in the stars. This wasn't just an astronomical sign - they actually saw a Virgin holding a balanced scale in the sky and understood that the time for the Child would soon be at hand. At the same time, a priest within the Temple of the Virgin also received a vision in which he came to understand that sacrificing children was a horrendous thing and must be ceased immediately. From that moment forward, the sacrifice of children stopped there.
No doubt God granted this mercy in honor of Mary who, having been born into the world, would never wish for such an atrocity to occur in her name. Our Lady, not yet a Mother, still brought peace and life to children just through her blessed and perfect existence on Earth.
Anyway, the 3 Kings truly were 3 in number and all related in direct lineage from those first prophets 500 years ago. They came from "afar" and were truly pious, holy men. Though they didn't believe in "God" as the Jews did, they understood that a higher power was calling them to lead lives of justice and humility. They longed for the Promised Child who would unite the world under peace and love. Thus, when they recognized the star announcing His Birth, they didn't hesitate to put together their gifts (well thought out given their 500 year prep time) and be on the move.
As they traveled, they drew a large following (about 200 people). Since the kings were generous in their alms, folks flocked to them. Everywhere these men went, they asked about the Newborn King. No one knew what they were talking about! The kings were confused and troubled by the lack of regard for this Holy Child. Everywhere they went they became more and more baffled as no one wanted to hear anything about this Child. The kings were treated kindly because of their obvious riches, but otherwise were looked upon as fools.
How loving God was to open the eyes of Gentiles. When these men (and their entourage) finally arrived at the Cave of the Nativity, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph were moved by their gifts (which really were gold, frankincense and myrrh - among many other things). They were so happy that such wise and holy men had come to pay homage to God. Even though the Holy Family was turned away and treated with disregard by their own people, Gentiles had come, seeing with their hearts the Truth of God's Love.
As the priest said in his homily, the 3 Wise Men are proof that God is the God of ALL people. God calls all of us to Himself. We have the free will to answer His call.
For about two months, I've visited a person who has been helping me along the path of spiritual development. Not a spiritual director... more of a friend and confidante. Anyway, every time I go, it's like something happens in my brain that I black out directions.
It's not like I don't know the area. It's certainly not like I haven't been there a bunch of times (he's in the same vicinity as the hospital in which I gave birth to Vincent!). Even John commented that it was somewhat difficult for him to recall how to get there as well. How strange is that?
My only rationale is some sort of angry little spirit is causing me to forget. It's like my mind is wiped clean after a certain exit and I'm simply baffled as to what turn to take next. The last time it happened (this past Wednesday), I actually thought I was losing my mind. Had it not been for John confirming the strangeness of it, I would've thrown my hands up and cried out in frustration.
However, glad that I wasn't completely out of my mind (though still uncertain of being on the cusp of insanity), I asked God to help me get to where I needed to go and to brand the directions into my brain so as not to have this confusion next time I drive up to this place.
Writing out down and rereading it makes me think I'm going a little off the deep end, but in all honesty, this guy has been helping me really find peace and happiness, and I can't help but think the evil one knows that. He's not happy about it, and he wants to do what he can to destroy it.
Ugh - crazy, right? St. Michael, protect me.
John snapped this picture of Vince and I right before we left for Christmas Eve Mass. The church was packed with PACERs (those who attend only on Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Christmas, Easter, or other Required events like weddings and funerals). Honestly, I'll admit to being really irritated by that at first. These folks were coming in droves to the church for what reason? A sense of obligation? Tradition? Sudden desire to rekindle a relationship with Jesus?
Then I realized I was honestly no one to dare exhale a huff from my lungs. Regardless of the reason, Jesus was no doubt happy to have folks come to see Him. Maybe a few were even moved by the Spirit and will become a fixture in our parish. Here's to hoping, right?
Anyway, on account of the church being packed like a sardine can, I couldn't hear or see anything. That meant Vince couldn't either. I was surprised he was as calm as he was. He behaved very well save for a short moment of refusing to share his book with another little girl beside him. After a quick "Angry Mommy" look, he handed the book over without question and then clapped, proud of himself for sharing.
During Communion, I made my way to Father's line and as I knelt down before accepting the Host, I saw Vincent stoop again beside me. The altar server holding the patten saw him stoop, too, as did several people in the pews as there was a moment of "awww" as I flushed with pride and gratitude. I was so proud that Vincent was picking up proper etiquette and grateful that God had pushed me to take him all this time (through you fellow bloggers!).
Anyway, we made our way back to the now empty cry room (apparently once Communion is received Mass is officially "over"). Vince had definitely had enough of being a "good boy" and chose that moment to run like a crazy person all over the place. I allowed him about a minute of energy-loss until I wrangled him in for the final blessing.
Due to the crowd and Vince's super-fidget, I thought it best to leave approaching the nativity to next week. All in all, a wonderful experience.
We're just waiting on you now, Baby Jesus! :)
This picture is exactly how I felt last night (and this morning... ha!).
I spent about 3 hours cooking for my husband's company party last night. The party was this morning, and I spent the better part of this morning running around like a crazy person.
The pulled pork had been ordered three weeks ago from a place I couldn't remember the name of. I had Googled it weeks ago and couldn't tell you the name or city it existed in. I thought I had saved the info on my computer, but no dice. With less than an hour until the party, I was in a panic. I still had to ready the other food, wrap the gifts, get Vince's daycare stuff in order (he had a party, too), and take care of a work emergency.
I called upon all my Purgatorial buddies and several saints (St. Anthony included) and even the Blessed Mother in an effort to help me remember the name of the shop. I even said, "Okay, Guardian Angel, I know you know what it is! C'mon... please, please, please help me remember!"
Finally, after a morning of dwelling in a half-heart-attack state, I said, "God, I fully know you're capable of something this tiny. I also realize you've probably got way bigger things to take care of. However, you're God, and you can handle it. I know you'll take care of this, too, 'cause I know all those saints / angels are praying, and the Blessed Mother never turns down intercessions. Just help me be patient as you sort through the paperwork."
Seriously - not even five minutes later and the answer comes to me as I'm scrolling through my computer.
I seriously dropped to my knees and started thanking God in every possibly way I could. Man... what a relief! John wasn't going to have to find someone to help covertly bury his murdered wife after all!
Everything else quickly started falling into place.
After picking up the pork and dropping off the food I made, I went straight to the Adoration Chapel I found a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the Eucharist wasn't exposed, but I didn't let a little thing like a tabernacle door stop me from adoring Jesus. :)
I really felt so happy and grateful to be with Him to properly thank Him for His help this morning. I gave shout outs to all my saint / purgatory friends, and spent some time meditating on Our Lady. I offered up couple chaplets for the Holy Souls as a thank you since I know that made both them and Jesus happy.
Mmmmm - even though I'm absolutely exhausted (it's not even 3pm yet!), I'm insanely happy that I was given such a gift today. We've got ourselves one swell God, huh? :)
Sheesh! Triple post today. Usually the good news piles up on Wednesdays, but WOW! Today is shaping up to be quite the smile-maker!
I just came across this story through a friend.
A woman decided to pay off three random Christmas layaway bills, leaving only a $10 balance on each. In her words, she simply wished to anonymously "bless others" as she's been so abundantly blessed.
Don't bother sopping up your melted heart just yet - it gets better.
Upon broadcasting this kindness through a local news channel, ANOTHER secret Santa decided to pay off 13 more to the tune of $2,000.
Opening your heart in kindness and gifting in so selfless a way is the TRUE meaning of Christmas. That is the TRUE lesson St. Nicholas taught us. When Saint Nicholas dropped coins off to poor families, he wasn't simply giving them money... he was giving them HOPE. He was showing them love. St. Nicholas, in truth, was bringing these people Christ. He was the perfect role model of Divine Providence, and that's why his image as "Santa Claus" exists today.
These "Secret Santas" are carrying on the tradition of anonymously spreading the blessings of Christ to others. As one recipient correctly explained, "It's the best gift that I ever received, and it's the gift of believing in people." In a word - hope. :)
May the domino effect continue!
_These words of Jesus to Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity really struck a chord with me. May they do the same for you.
"Those who love Me a little, have a little confidence in Me. Those who love Me much, have great confidence in Me. Those who place no limit to their love have a confidence in Me without bounds or limit. I cannot disappoint them. You honor Me more by the confidence you show Me than by all that you could give Me. And notice, I respond at once by putting joy into the heart that honors Me with confidence."
"As I am happy, yes, happy to show you the marks of My Passion -see how your God has loved you! -Will you not also be happy to show Me the marks of your love...? "Oh, if you knew how I long for you! Not to reproach you, but to overwhelm you with joy in showing you the marks of My love... "
"People have a false idea of Me. They take Me for a master who distributes his favors at his caprice and who enforces His will. Do you understand that I enforce nothing? I am powerless before your liberty. It is I who beg for your love. Look at Me gasping for breath upon the Cross; behold My royalty! I have expiated your sins, but I do not even force you to believe it. I show you My Passion -does it speak to you? -and I wait. Behold My Divinity; -an indefatigable patience. Throughout the centuries I await souls. I never refuse them. Ask to know Me better. Do the same with your life. Make reparation; expiate; love without asking for anything in return; and wait patiently until you too are loved. Never refuse to give love. It is I whom you honor and serve so tenderly; I have such need of it."
Since making the decision to take Vince to Mass with me, I've gotten to see a much calmer side to him. Ha.
This weekend, he was gold for me. I was surprised, because he'll typically wanna get down and run around the cry room. Since we were the only family in there, he didn't have any bad examples to follow, so he calmly sat in my lap the entire time and watched the Mass unfold quietly. He didn't even want to read his books!
When I'd hold him in my arms during those parts where we stand, he happily played with my hair / veil, or he'd simply put his arms around my neck and lay his head on my shoulder. I could've snuggled him happily forever!
During the Offertory, we had a few folks come back to use the bathroom (which is in the cry room). Vince simply waved and said "Hi!" to everyone, but remained content in my arms. There was one little girl, probably about 6 years old, who entered with her family. She skitted all over the place and eventually hurt herself while her father tended the younger sister in the bathroom. I thought for sure Vincent was going to fight to get down and run with her, but to my happy surprise, he didn't! Soon they left and we were left to ourselves again.
For Communion, I led Vince to Father's line. We could've gone to the deacon's line (which was closer), but now that I've got Vince, I want the added bonus of his special blessing over Vincent. Until he's able to receive Communion himself, I want Vincent to understand that the Communion line is a special blessing, even for him. Vincent patiently walked up the aisle with me, beaming at everyone, calling out the occasional "Hi!" During his blessing, he smiled up at Father while trying to grab the altar server's robe. Ha ha.
Anyway, upon settling back into our seat, I kissed Vincent. It's something that I've done ever since reading about Little Nellie Organ, who wished that her "Mudder" would kiss her upon coming from Communion so she could pay reverence to the Holy Sacrament. Little Nellie, for those unfamiliar with her saintly story, was only 4 years old at the time of her 1st Communion. In fact, it was through Nellie that Pope St Pius X received the signal he was waiting for to drop the age of 1st Communicants!
Upon completion of Mass, I led Vincent to the back door, crossing the center aisle. As always, I genuflected and said to Vincent, "Say 'bye-bye' to Jesus! 'Bye, bye Jesus! I love you!'"
No sooner did I make that motion than Vincent, himself, stooped to the floor saying "Bye bye." Granted, he didn't genuflect, but he attempted to follow my lead, and it made me so proud of him. :) Our kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for, as I'm quickly learning. Ha ha ha. He's such a blessing, this one!
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast marks the fulfillment of the promise made to God by Sts. Joachim and Anne upon learning they were blessed with a child. At the age of three, little Mary was to be consecrated to God in the service of the Temple.
No doubt, when she hit 3 years of age, Sts. Joachim and Anne led her to the Temple, awash in feelings of both gratitude and sadness. I can't even begin to fathom how bittersweet that moment must have been.
I like the painting to the right because it shows St. Anne walking her daughter, Mary, up the steps of the Temple. Family and friends, having gathered in celebration to wish her well, look on from the foreground. You can see by the folds in her veil that little Mary was already looking up towards those priests who would act as her guardians and teachers in the coming years. Oh, St. Anne... how did your heart break with pride and love? How did you manage to walk up those steps to hand over your daughter who only spent three short years in your arms? Truly you understood the gift God granted you, and truly you are an example of what it means to take part in Divine Providence.
God granted this special child to you... but you understood she was not only yours to love. She was not only yours to see the face of God through. So humbly, painfully... proudly... you took her by the hand and without complaint watched as your heart walked into the Temple to remain there. What a selfless example of gratitude.
This final painting makes me smile. I wish I could've found a clearer version for you, but this will have to suffice. In the foreground, we see Sts. Joachim and Anne, as well as family and friends who have gathered to see her off. She's going up the "15 steps" which signify her ascent to God's throne (the Holy of Holies in which the Ark of the Covenant rests). This is Our Lady's wedding celebration to God... it is in this ceremony that she accepts His Proposal and willingly submits to His Divine Will for all eternity. Our Lady is seen entranced, expectant for the Lord she knows is beckoning her to Himself. She doesn't turn back to cast a glance behind her. She willingly leaves everything behind in order to follow His Call.
Interestingly, I couldn't figure out what the two animals were in the foreground. I did a bit of research and will dedicate my next blog to my findings. :)
Anyway... for more information on The Presentation, feel free to take a look at this excerpt from the Venerable Mary of Agreda's The Mystical City of God.
She was in the Church, standing before the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, heartbroken. In her hands, she carried a beautiful red rose perched precariously in a cracked, though ornate, vase. She openly wept, oblivious to the others milling about in awkward silence.
Finally, a gentle old woman, Rita, moved towards her, hoping to find the source of such heavy grief. Softly, the older woman placed her hand upon the crumpled body of the younger and asked, "Why are you crying?"
Looking up, almost confused by the question, she answered, "My tears humbly go where my words dare not." Bowing her head again, the tears fell full and fast.
Not content to leave such a gaping wound with no salve, Rita eyed the chipped vase cupped in those trembling hands. "Such a beautiful flower," she whispered.
"I broke it. The Blessed Mother gave it to me and I broke it."
Rita thought for a moment. "You haven't broken the flower, dear."
"No, but I broke its vase. It's leaking, and the rose is already starting to brown. I've pieced it back together so many times, but the cracks are too deep, the shards too many. All I can do is watch it die. So here I am, begging God to perform a miracle."
Rita smiled, then. The chapel florist, she knew a thing or two about flowers and vases. She affirmed, "Your flower truly is a gift. It is unique and special beyond compare. I believe Our Lady entrusted this to you because she knew the goodness of your heart. She knew you'd protect this rose, and she knew you'd come to God if ever you felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of nurturing such a special gift. And here you are."
"Yes. Here I am, still with a broken, bleeding vase."
"Ah, but here I am, too! You don't need a miracle; you need a remedy. I believe that I am your remedy. The gift is yours, and you've done well to nurture it all this time. Sometimes, however, we need help protecting those things most dear to us, even when we think the responsibility is solely ours. I can help with this."
Rita then pulled a handkerchief from her pocket. After dampening the cloth in a font, she gently removed the rose from its crippled vase. With deft fingers, she wound her cloth around the stem. She said, "This will keep your rose well guarded while you choose a new vase. It should be simple and strong. An ornate vase has too many parts that chip and fall away, and it detracts from the humble beauty of the flower itself."
Then, while handing the flower back to her, Rita added, "Showcase this rose for what it is... not for what you think it ought to be."
Grateful, the young woman nodded her head, dried her tears, and hurried to find a simple vase, having left the broken one at the Feet of the Lord. He and Saint Rita smiled gently after her.
The above image portrays the entire Church. At the top, we see what's known as the Church Triumphant, all those souls who made themselves worthy to stand in the Presence of God (either through saintly lives, or a stint in Purgatory). Halfway down, we see the Church Militant - those of us still left living on Earth to battle against evil both for ourselves, and those at the bottom of the image... the Church Penitent. These are the holy souls of those who have not fully cleansed themselves of the sin they committed while still alive. We call them "holy" because they are no longer able to sin. Having seen the Face of God at Death, they yearn for nothing more than to join the Church Triumphant in Heaven. Through our prayers and acts of charity, they one day will.
In honor of All Saints Day, I wanted to post a few links that gave me a different take on God's desire for all of us to become willing participants in His Divine Plan.
I'll start with this one. A former skinhead found the love of Christ through the love of his family. As a result, he endured his own Purgatory-on-Earth as a doctor painstakingly burned away the scars of his old life. Satan only has claim over us for as long as we condescend to give him that power. Once we revoke his power, instead giving ourselves to God in humility and love, we become children of God. I have no doubt that this man will one day be a saint in Heaven, and his children, too. What a wonderful example of God's Grace and Mercy.
Next up, a beautiful anecdote written by Father Gerald T. Brennan, author of Father Brennan’s Favorite Stories. It's a story titled "The Most Beautiful Picture in the World." I'm going to be passing this along to my CCD students tonight. It is always important to remember that Christ calls us to be as children, fully trusting in His Plans for us. Indeed, Heaven is full of little children. Their innocence, beauty and trust must shine so brightly.
Over in Ireland, we have a wonderful priest calling for a humble and penitential Mass during their upcoming Eucharistic Conference. Oh, that we might all be so lucky to have such wise priests in our parishes!
Finally, I leave you with the tale of a missionary priest, Father Stanley Rother, who will hopefully be canonized at some point. I recently posted another story about a missionary priest who was also martyred for choosing to bring the Gospel to those who had no other means to hear it. We are blessed more than we know to have such saints living among us.
I'm sure I don't need to remind everyone of the importance of praying for our dead. We can never be sure where their souls end up at Judgement, so prayers certainly couldn't hurt. Plus, those we help achieve Heaven will undoubtedly plead our case ceaselessly before the throne of God. :)
The Blessed Virgin is the spoiled child of the Blessed Trinity.
She knows no law. Everything yields to her in heaven and on earth.
The whole of heaven gazes on her with delight.
She plays before the ravished eyes of God himself.
The detail to your left is taken from a painting titled La Nascita della Vergine by Guido Reni. It depicts the joyous celebration of the birth of the Blessed Mother. All the women bubbling about in the picture are overjoyed for Sts. Joachim and Anne. Why? They had passed their childbearing years. They were considered to be infertile and cursed, and they pleaded with God to bless them with a child. After years of petitioning God through prayer and sacrifice, God blessed them with a child.
Boy did they not realize just what God had in store for them!!!
In their years pleading for God's aid, they were being prepared for a blessing incomprehensible! They were tasked (unwittingly) with bringing the Ark of the New Covenant into the world. Theirs was the responsibility of raising up the Mother of God... the Queen of Heaven... the Woman Clothed with the Sun! While they understood this child was, indeed, uniquely blessed, I wonder how aware they were of just how perfect and special she really was...
Can you imagine, though, what that day must have been like? Since God wanted to keep this most perfect gift a secret from even the angels themselves, I wonder how they reacted when St. Michael the Archangel was tasked with protecting this little one ('cause in my mind, St. Michael was always the Guardian of the Blessed Mother). Did St. Michael understand who it was that He protected? Did any of the Guardian angels that were present at her birth understand? Did they understand that this babe was their Queen? That she would bear forth God as Man?
Incredible. But all those present were probably blissfully unaware of the amazement of the angelic choirs surrounding them. None were aware of how God's own Heart must have rejoiced in this, His Most Perfect Creation... the creature called upon from all eternity to be His Mother, the bridge between human and divine.
Happy Feast Day, Blessed Mother. May the world rejoice in the promise of Life that you bring!
Whew! Another huge one. I couldn't help myself, today. I found this cartoon and you couldn't smack the smile off my face if you tried. *Grin*
This past weekend, I realized that my favorite chapel veil was missing. I knew I had placed it in a bag with 30 other things as I was clearing my car out, but after my husband's party, everything was gone and I was afraid that he'd tossed the bag into the recycling. So I asked St. Anthony if he'd be so kind as to condescend to help me find it. In fact, I said the typical "St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around, my chapel veil is lost and I'd appreciate it being found." I also added, "But if you're too busy, I totally understand. It's only a chapel veil, and I can buy another one if I have to."
I didn't have time to look for the veil (since I was on my way to Mass), but a few hours later, I decided to tackle the recycling bin. I only did it half-heartedly, though, once more repeating the St. Anthony prayer. Considering the rain we got, I figured even if I found it, buried beneath all the trash, it'd be beyond ruined. So I gave up and went back inside.
Very late that night, John and I were finishing up a movie. I asked him to pause it because we were nearing midnight and I wanted to get in my nightly prayer. So he paused it and I locked myself away for the Divine Mercy chaplet. Upon completion, I went to the bathroom so I'd be able to sit through the rest of the film. In front of me, sitting on the edge of the tub, was a bag. Inside the bag was MY bag... the one I had been looking for... and inside that was my chapel veil.
I burst out of the bathroom victorious saying, "Thank you, St. Anthony! John, look! St. Anthony found it! I gave up, but he didn't! Thank you, St. Anthony! You're so awesome!"
Even John grinned. Normally, he's pretty dismissive of my religious talk, but I think even he was mildly amused that this "great saint" would bother to help a random chick find something as silly as a veil.
I think that's part of the miracle of St. Anthony, though. He truly IS a great Saint, but he humbles himself so as to become patron of the most ridiculous things. He takes care of such seemingly insignificant tasks, and as promised, God has exhalted him above many others for such humility. St. Anthony is one of the best known saints, and we have his humility and willing intercession to thank for such generosity. :)
"Where are you going, my father, without your son? Where are you going, holy pontiff, without your deacon? Never did you offer a sacrifice without my serving you at the altar. In what way have I displeased you?”
St. Lawrence probably couldn't contain his weeping as he followed his beloved leader, Pope Sixtus, to his martyrdom. In an attempt to console his faithful servant, Pope Sixtus prophesied, "I am not abandoning you, my son; a more difficult trial and a more glorious victory are reserved for you; in three days you will follow me."
Indeed, after angering the Prefect of Rome by amassing the Church's "treasure" of poor, virgin and infirm Christians, St. Lawrence was martyred on an iron grill, burned alive for his unwavering faith and ineffable love of Christ in the needy. He was infamously quoted as saying, "Turn me over - I'm done on this side!" as he joyously suffered unspeakable pain for love of God.
Let us all stop a moment and say a prayer for our Permenant Deacons... those discerning the call, those in formation, and those serving (past and presently). May we continually be thankful for their service to the Church.
In other news...
We've still got a bunch of misguided women attempting to decry the unalterable truth of Church Teaching. This time, the burden of foolishness lies with the Women's Ordination Conference. They've got a petition circulating in favor of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, hoping their collective voices will stop Fr. Roy's superiors from correctly dismissing Father from his role as priest.
Once again, how's about these women take a page from the Protestant handbook and just leave the Catholic Church? They are very much in conflict with Catholicism's most basic principles. They're already Protestant, they're just too blinded by self-righteousness to realize it.
In fact, as if this entire charade isn't ludicrous enough, they've got a "ministry" that is self-titled "Ministry of Irritation." Sad, isn't it?
WOC - instead of attempting to get Catholicism to bow down to your selfish and misled desires, I suggest finding the door and using it. No one is holding you hostage to Catholicism. Please go start your own religion and muck up as much foolishness and dishonesty as you'd like. Stop attempting to drag the Church through the mud. No matter how much you whine, complain and stamp your feet, you'll NEVER be recognized as priests because you were never meant to be priests.
So go ahead and have all the false ordinations you want. Go ahead and wear stoles, chausibles, and even "play Mass" with bread and wine. No matter how many manicured hands pray over these items, no matter how much enthusiasm is put into praying our Sacred Prayers, and no matter how much "faith" you've got in your ability to consecrate, Christ will never condescend to create His Body and Blood through you.
Wah, wah, wah all the way home, ladies. You are not meant to be priests.
In lighter news, the Mighty Broom has become a symbol of hope and unity for Londoners in response to the rioting and looting of the last few nights.
Volunteers organized themselves via Facebook and Twitter and swarmed the hardest hit areas of London in an attempt to begin taking back their streets. God bless them for their efforts. More information, interviews, pictures and commentary can be found here. Kudos to them!
While I was at Mass tonight, I picked up some literature on Saint Gianna. Ever since hearing her story, I've felt a great fondness for her selflessness. I always told my husband that if it were my life vs. the baby's, he should choose the baby over me without hesitation. So in Saint Gianna I find an example who not only spoke such sentiments, but lived and died by them.
I can't even imagine the inner struggle she must have felt knowing that she'd be leaving four small children behind. The thought of leaving my own son behind is heartbreaking on many levels. But to have true faith and trust in God that you are willing to turn over your most precious gems to His Will... that is the kind of faith I wish to have. That is the kind of trust I wish to place in the Lord at all times. Oh, Saint Gianna... help me to live by your example faithfully. Help me to hand over all fear to Him, instead relying on His Mercy and Goodness to set my heart at ease.
When I was in 3rd grade, I came across a mustard yellow book during library time. I hated the color yellow, but something about the hard cover and musty pages caught my attention. I didn't bother bringing the book back to my seat, I just opened it and began to read. It was the story of Saint Germaine Cousin.
Within those pages I felt her story take hold of my heart. She was deformed... ugly. Her family hated her and casted her away from their love. She had no friends, and relied only on the mercy of Jesus and His Most Blessed Mother. In her loneliness and exile, she found peace and happiness that few could understand.
I felt one with this saint. My own family had rejected me, and I felt ugly and deformed. I wasn't popular and had only one constant friend, who at the time was also rejecting me. In the midst of my childish sorrows, I had asked the Blessed Mother to adopt me and care for me since no one else would. In answering my heartfelt request, she sent me Saint Germaine, my patroness and my sister-soul who would forever be my constant friend.
Though I've been away from the Catholic Church for many years, I haven't been far from Saint Germaine or the Blessed Mother. Their constant intercession has been the tether to my faith... a beacon in the storm of my sin. I recognize this and cling to their examples of what "fiat" means: Pure humility, joyful and patient acceptance of suffering, and steadfast love of and trust in God's Will.
So it is with the Blessed Mother and Saint Germaine in mind that I open this blog. I ask that they be my constant examples, that they continue to exercise their powerful intercession for the conversion of my heart, and that they pray in a special way for the Holy Spirit to utilize my words for His Will.
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