Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

So Many Questions

Apparently what stuck out for me in this week's Gospel stuck out for a lot of people. Every reflection I read was about this verse:  Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:38) Excellent questions, Lord. I can see how the disciples who were there with Jesus were troubled and had questions. They were there. If this had happened in our lifetime, wouldn't we have questions and concerns? How can this be? Is it really a trick, or is He really alive and in front of us? Sometimes I think it's easier for me to believe now than it would be if I had been there and seen it with my own eyes. It's in the Bible, so we all know it has to be true. Can you even imagine what it would have been like, to have Jesus right in front of you with the holes in His hands, feet, and side? To be one of those women who stuck with Him the whole way? To be one who went to the tomb only to find it empty? To see with your own eyes that He lives?

I Am That Doubting Thomas

I returned home from an incredible experience over the past few days. My diocese had our CCW Convention. I was blessed to spend some days with around 250 fellow Catholic Sisters in Christ, to meet new women and reconnect with others. We had amazing speakers who just walked into my life for the very first time. I knew nothing about any of them, but now feel such a oneness with them. Our keynote speaker on Thursday evening following Mass and dinner was Kitty Cleveland. She has a voice of an angel and finally followed God's calling to be a Music Missionary. As I listened to one of her CDs on the way home, she told her story. She mentioned that she has, on occasion, received the gift of speaking in tongues. I've never seen this happen to anyone, so I am a bit skeptical when I hear people talking about this. A doubting Thomas, for sure, but Kitty gives some pretty convincing testimony about this. I told my husband about it, and he asked me how I could believe other miracles that happen every day and have doubts about this? Hmmm... He comes up with great thought-provoking questions every now and then, for sure!

The Short Answer

Why is it so hard for us to believe? Why do questions "arise in our hearts"? The short answer: we're human. There are times when we lack faith. There are times when the evil one whispers those doubts and we hear them. Then we ponder on them. I mentioned to my parish priest once about ugly doubts that were entering my mind. He assured me that meant that I'm getting closer to God and making the devil mad. The devil does what he can to keep us from gaining our happiness, from reaching our goal: to get to heaven. It's in those moments when we need to picture Jesus on the cross and say, "I trust in you." I'm sure nothing makes the evil one sulk more than to watch someone do that. And I'm all about making him miserable!

Repeat After Me

The solution: Give it to the Lord. As I said before, we're human. We worry, we have doubts. Some days are easier to give everything over to Him than others. There are tears, there are quick trips to the bathroom because of worry and that lack of control over others. And keep saying over and over: "Jesus, I trust in You".

Friday, March 30, 2018

Trying to Grasp What It All Means

I am writing this on the morning of Good Friday so I am in the throes of feeling the grief at Jesus being betrayed and left by his disciples to die on the cross. I am feeling the hatred that He must have felt during the Way of the Cross. I am feeling lonely, rejected, and just downright sad.

Humbled and Honored

I had the honor of playing my flute for Holy Thursday Mass, along with my flute partner, 2 violins, and a cello. The music that our director prepared was beautiful and added so much to the Mass. In addition to that, I was so humbled to be asked to be one of the 12 parishioners to sit on the altar and have the priest wash our feet. It was more humbling and emotional than I could have imagined. I had been asked before and said no. Last year as I sat in the pew watching I knew I would say yes if asked again.

Dropping Out

As The Transfer of the Blessed Sacrament made its way to the Adoration Chapel, I noticed people began to drop out. This struck me as I thought of Jesus making his way to Golgotha. The apostles dropped out as did other followers of Jesus until there was only the Blessed Virgin, Mary of Clopas, Mary of Magdala, and John (John 19:25). Everyone else dropped by the wayside. How many times have I "dropped out" during my lifetime?
Do we realize just what He did for us? The ultimate sacrifice He made so we might live? Wow. I can't even begin to grasp this.

A Welcome Memory

What better way to spend a birthday but to play at Mass & have the humbling experience to have your feet washed? I took the day off of work because I had a doctor's appointment. In the morning, I heard cardinals...a lot of cardinals. There's a saying that when you see a cardinal it's a sign that someone in heaven is praying for you. Seeing and hearing cardinals have been a great comfort to me since my mom's and then my dad's passings. I had to smile and say a quick prayer when I heard a cardinal singing. While sitting on the porch with my dad one day a few years ago, we heard a bird & he pointed out that it was a cardinal singing "pretty, pretty, pretty". Who knew that passing of information would bring me such comfort in the future!
Since my mother's passing a few years ago, Holy Thursday has been exceptionally emotional for me, especially during the Transfer of the Blessed Sacrament. She was the organist for about 40 years, so when I hear Pange Lingua Gloriosi I hear her singing and I tear up. It's such a beautiful hymn and I am filled with such gratitude for having her as my mother and for passing on the Catholic Faith.

Unexpected Emotions

Some Triduums affect me more emotionally than others. I did not expect to feel this way at this minute, on this Good Friday, because I don't think I'm as prepared for Easter as other years.  Maybe that's why it's hitting me so hard all at once. I'll go through my day doing what I have to do. I'll start preparing for Easter Dinner and will go to the Living Stations of the Cross as well as the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord tonight. I will do my best to realize and try to grasp just what He has done for me.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Down & Dirty

Picture courtesy of Dreamstime
In today's Homily, the Deacon said some things that confirmed something that I read: God gives us struggles so we will turn to him. We have to die in order to spiritually grow closer to God. He didn't say that exact thing, but that was what I took from it.

Getting "Down & Dirty"

He began by talking about having a perfect grain of wheat. Some people would polish it and put it in a glass case, hidden from view to protect it. I totally get that...it's the same way with faith. Yes, it should be polished, but put in a glass case hidden from view? No. Jesus calls us to take our faith, polish it, but then share it with others. We shouldn't take our faith and hide it. He calls us to evangelize and share.
Just like the grain of wheat has to fall to the ground and get dirty, so we have to take our faith and "get down and dirty" with it.  He suggests taking our Lenten practices and continuing it after Easter as a way to "get dirty". We have to die to ourselves so that we can grow into something new & different.

Called to Him Through Struggles

I have 3 adult sons with adult challenges. One of them is going through some especially difficult challenges; it seems like he just can't catch a break. Every time things seem to be turning for the better, something else happens.  As a mom, it's heartbreaking to know I have no control over it and I can't fix it for him.  I read somewhere (I can't find it now...it may have been in Matthew Kelly's book Perfectly Yourself) that God will call you through your struggles. Will it fix everything? No. But it will give you the patience and will give you joy as you're going through it. It will definitely take some of the sting out of things happening. It is through these struggles that God will create a clean heart in us.

A Wonderful Harvest in the Making

He is constantly calling us back to Him; I think He is practically begging. What will it take before some will hear His call and will return to His fold? I am constantly praying for the intercession of St. Anne & St. Monica, but I have to also remember to ask Jesus to allow me to truly trust in Him. Your will, not mine.  I have to ask to be able to accept His will, whatever it may be. I have taken that perfect grain of wheat off the shelf and out of the glass case and put in full view. It still needs a lot of polishing, but I'm working on sharing it. I'm getting down and dirty with it. I pray that it takes hold and produces a wonderful harvest!


Friday, March 16, 2018

{SQT} We've Got a Cathedral!

I've been on Spring Break this week and my husband took the week off as well. Our initial plans to camp were put aside because I had weather concerns. We had flurries a couple of times this week, and I didn't want to camp and be cold. (Yep, I'm spoiled that way!) We took one day and went to the nearby city. I live in a young Diocese that is only 27 years old, so we didn't have a Cathedral, per se. The Cathedra was housed in an existing older church, so "we" built a Cathedral. It was dedicated just last week. As we were out & about one day, my husband asked where it was and wanted to see it. I watched part of the dedication on the internet, but seeing it in person was just breathtaking.

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Statue of St. John Paul II on the side wall

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View of the altar

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The altar is made of marble from the same quarry as the marble Michealango used to carve the Pieta.
The tabernacle is repurposed from a church in the Netherlands. It is over 100 years old and weighs over 500 pounds.
The Baldacchino is actually made from wood finished in faux marble paint. 

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In the dome, there are pictures of saints who are either American or are of nationalities found within our Diocese. These pictures were painted on canvas and then applied by hand to the dome. The main feature of the dome is the Sacred Heart of Jesus with Mary & Joseph on either side of Jesus. The 12 apostles are around the dome. In the 4 corners just under the dome are the 4 evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John.

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This picture came out a little blurry, but it is the back of the cathedral. We weren't allowed to go to the choir loft to see the organ, but the pipes were spectacular.

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These statues are in the front of the Cathedral, just as you walk in:
Saint Faustina


Saint/Mother Teresa
I"m assuming this is St. Joseph? (Someone correct me if I'm wrong!) A commenter said this is St. Peter. I should've googled to see who it was! THANK YOU!!!

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The dedication stone

A close-up of the plaque. 
It is an absolutely beautiful church, and, in my opinion, one that rivals some of the churches I've seen in Europe.

I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Rejoicing with Grace in the Middle of Lent

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to be children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. (CCC 1996) In RCIA this week, someone had a very good question: What is the difference between grace & blessing? The Catechism explains blessing as expressing the basic movement of Christian prayer; it is an encounter between God and man. In blessing, God's gift and man's acceptance of it are united in dialogue with each other, the prayer of blessing is man's response to God's gifts: because God blesses, the human heart can in return bless the One who is the source of every blessing. (CCC 2626) I interpret that to mean that through God's blessing, we receive grace. Please keep in mind that I am not a theologian and have never taken college courses on theology. This is just my simple mind trying to wrap my head around this week's Readings.

Rejoice in the middle of Lent?

The priests and deacons wear pink (or rose...the deacon is adamant that they are rose!) vestments this week. Lent is a time for confession, penance, and reconciliation. Here we are in the middle of Lent, and it's a day of rejoicing. (Enter record scratch here.) Wait...what? Yes, I said rejoicing. In the middle of Lent!  It's time to come out of the darkness to prepare for our risen Lord. To get to that, first, we have to relive his passion.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Today is the day to get a breather. Take a deep breath, look back on how you've been doing during Lent with your spiritual health, and get ready for the "heavy week". As I get older, Holy Week takes on more meaning. As I reflect on how my Lent has been going, I have work to do. Serious work. I slacked off this past week and haven't felt myself getting closer to God. I feel like I'm hiding in the darkness.

Coming Out of the Dark

When I was a child, I'm pretty sure if I did something I wasn't supposed to I would sneak and hide. (Getting sweets when I wasn't supposed to comes to mind!) We have a dog (who is actually my son's...she's our house guest until he graduates) who will run and hide under the bed when she's done something wrong. I think those are 2 pretty good examples of hiding in the darkness due to sin. (You might argue that dogs can't sin, but that's a topic for another day.) In the dog's case, once we cajole her and talk sweetly to her, she'll come out from under the bed. As people, once we're told it's okay and we're forgiven, don't we feel as if the darkness has dissipated? During his Homily, the priest said that Jesus came to bring light to the world. Lent is not about darkness so we shouldn't hide but instead come out into the light. As Catholics, we receive grace when we go to confession and are absolved of our sins. What an amazing blessing God has given us!

Just Go

Communal penitential services are a perfect time to prepare yourself to receive the grace given to us through the Sacrament of Penance. Or, go to confession at your parish's scheduled time. If that doesn't work for you, call the parish office and make an appointment for the priest to hear your confession. Just go to prepare yourself for Holy Week.

During the Homily, Father mentioned that as Christians, we continue to be drawn to God. I momentarily got distracted by Audrey Assad's song coming to mind:



Sunday, March 4, 2018

Time to Clear Out


Flashback to Wednesday afternoon. I pulled out my Magnificat to read the Gospel for Sunday before RCIA. The problem was, there were 2 different readings. Are we in Year A or B? I just chalked it up to God just wanting me to listen as it was read during RCIA, only this week we didn't have the Gospel reading and discussion we usually do. I shrugged it off because surely the USCCB will tell me exactly which one to read. Sunday morning I pulled up USCCB on my tablet, but it didn't tell me which one to read. I was a little frustrated. So, I pulled up my email, because my Blessed is She email will have the Readings listed. And it did. I did a little chuckle when I realized That the Gospel tells about the time Jesus went into the temple with a whip, overturning tables and yelling because it had been turned into a marketplace. That pretty much calmed my frustration pretty quickly. I found it interesting that God let me feel so frustrated before reading the Gospel. I know the frustration I felt was just a minuscule fraction of what Jesus felt.

It had to be over the top

The Gospel this week is a story we all know. It's the story about when Jesus gets mad. Honestly, this has always confused me, because Jesus is perfect and, to me, should never get mad. Losing your patience is a sin, right? Looking at it right now, at this moment, I get it. He did what he had to in order to make the people see what they were doing. He had to "overexaggerate" if you will. If he had just walked in the temple and politely said, "Okay, you guys. This is my father's house, and what you're doing is not allowed in here, so pick up your merchandise and get your animals out of here", they would have looked at him and laughed him out of the temple. No, it took something over the top for them to see just how serious this was.

The "Aha Moment"

During his homily, Father took notice that Jesus drove out the sheep and the oxen; however, he told the ones with the doves to just get them out of there. I can picture Jesus looking at them with compassion and quietly telling them to get the birds out. I never realized the significance of the birds, or that Jesus treated them differently. Father explained that when people came from all over for the Passover, some traveled a great distance. The animal to be sacrificed had to be unblemished, so I imagine that those travelers couldn't chance bringing an animal, only to have something happen to it before the sacrifice. They bought unblemished animals in Jerusalem. The doves were less expensive, so the poor were the ones who purchased them. Therein lies the explanation as to why Jesus gently (in my opinion) told those sellers to take the doves out.  And that was my "Aha moment" of the day.

Clearing out your temple

Our parish priest is such an amazing homilist. I'm always eager to hear his homilies when I find out he is the celebrant for Mass because I know it's going to be good.  They aren't long, but they are short, sweet, and to the point. Not only that but relatable to the here and now. This week's homily was no different. In relating the Gospel to today, he said that Lent is a time of cleaning out your temple. It's now that we refocus on what is important: not the material things or selfishness, but getting right with God. He said, now is the time to "clear out what gets in our way so we can rejoice with a pure heart." 
We are just about halfway through Lent. Father's words have given me a sense of urgency; I am nowhere near ready to rejoice with a pure heart. I'm getting there. Every time I think I'm on the way I have a setback, but I always seem to get back on the right track. Maybe that's what Lent is all about: the ups and downs, the trials and rejoicing. God definitely doesn't let me too proud of myself! Especially lately, He's keeping me humble!
How is Lent going for you? Are you ready to rejoice with a pure heart or are you sensing the urgency as I am?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Lepers & Saints

During RCIA, we start out by reading the next Sunday's Gospel and having a discussion. Sometimes it can be very interesting to see what stood out for some people.  This week, there were varying opinions: was the leper being prideful when he was healed? Why did Jesus tell him not to tell anyone? What was the "cleansing what Moses prescribed" (Mark 1: 44)?

The Cleansing Process

After reading Leviticus 14 1:32, I realized what a long, arduous process the cleansing is. It wasn't a quick sacrificial ceremony, rather, it took days. It begins with 2 live birds and cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop. 1 of the birds is slaughtered over fresh water, then the live bird (along with the other materials) is dipped into the blood. The person is then sprinkled 7 times with this blood. The person is then allowed to go back to his house, but he can't go in it just yet. He has to stay outside for 7 days (I'm assuming this is so that the house can be declared "clean"...the rest of chapter 13 of Leviticus discusses that process.), when he has to shave off all hair, wash his clothes, and bathe in water. On the 8th day, 3 lambs are brought before the priest: 2 male and 1 female. One of the males is sacrificed, with the blood being put on very specific places on the one being cleansed. Then, oil that also was brought is placed on specific body parts of the person. Next is a purification offering. Verses 21-32 discuss the cleansing process for someone who is poor, which I imagine a lot of lepers were since they were banished from the community and their families were shamed. It was an interesting read, for sure!

What's the Connection?

During the Readings during Mass, I thought of how the 3 Readings were intertwined. I think some Sundays I have a hard time fitting the 3 together, but not this week. The First Reading (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46) touches on what I described in the previous paragraph. It seems a bit spliced to me, reading the whole Chapter makes more sense. This Reading gives us a glimpse of what it was like to have leprosy. Just a glimpse, though. Lepers were banished from their communities; their families looked upon with shame because it was believed that leprosy was brought on by the sins of the leper. Can you imagine? These days, leprosy is known as "Hansen's Disease", and, according to the CDC, can take up to 20 years to develop. It is treatable, and the CDC estimates 150-250 people in the U.S.A. contract the bacterial infection per year. (Hansen's Disease-CDC)
The Second Reading doesn't seem to have a connection between the First Reading and the Gospel, but after I listened to it and read it again, there's definitely a connection to the Gospel. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) and See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself... (Mark 1:44) As part of our discussion at RCIA, we talked about not doing things for recognition (there's that theme again!). Jesus could have told the leper to run out and tell everyone about his great miracles, but that wasn't his purpose for becoming man and being on the earth. He didn't want people to think he was just about being a healer, a miracle worker. He wanted his physical healings to take a back seat to his true ministry: healing the souls of the people. He calls us to imitate him today, to do things for the right reason: to glorify God and not to call attention to ourselves.

A Hero or a Crazy Man?

St. Damien of Molokai was a Belgian priest who, when his brother fell ill before going on a mission to Hawaii, took his brother's place. He learned of a leper island with no structure. He helped, not only with the structure, but building houses and a chapel. More importantly, he helped with their souls. He eventually contracted the disease after living within the community for 16 years and succumbed to leprosy at the age of 49. There are reports that, upon his passing, all signs of leprosy vanished from his face. Upon statehood, Hawaii selected to have St. Damien as one of its representatives in the Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. When accused of immoral behavior by a Protestant clergyman, St. Damien was defended by Robert Louis Stevenson in his Open Letter to Mr. Hyde. (Franciscan Media) Father Damien was ordained in Hawaii...when he first arrived, he was not a priest. He was only supposed to minister in Molokai for a few months but asked (along with some of the inhabitants) to stay. Even though leprosy is not highly contagious (as was once thought), Father Damien did not pay attention to hygiene which contributed to his contracting the disease.
Want to go on a pilgrimage? In 2015, there were still a few dozen people living in Kalaupapa, which is now a National Historical Park. This includes mostly park employees. Visitors are limited to 100 per day (no one under 16 is permitted) and they have to be invited by either the park employees are the remaining inhabitants. Kalaupapa is accessible only by mule or hiking. There is a long-term plan for the park to be opened up for tourists.

St. Damien Prayer: (Diocese of Honolulu)

Damien, brother on the journey, happy and generous missionary, who loved the Gospel more than your own life, who for love of Jesus left your family, your homeland, your security and your dreams.

Teach us to give our lives with joy like yours, to be in solidarity with the outcasts of our world, to celebrate and contemplate the Eucharist as the source of our own commitment.

Help us to love to the very end and, in the strength of the Spirit, to persevere in compassion for the poor and forgotten so that we might be good disciples of Jesus and Mary.

Amen