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

Monday, June 27, 2016

If You Believe in Miracles, Then Clap Your Hands {Worth Revisiting}

For some reason, when I thought about writing this post, the Peter Pan song, "If you Believe in Fairies" popped into my head. Weird.
This morning, I opened my school email (which I usually avoid doing in the summer). There was an email from the cafeteria manager, whose husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year. The prognosis was not good...they were told it was terminal. 
Let me back up just a bit. At the beginning of the year, Jennifer Fulwiler had a link to the Saint's Name Generator. I thought, "eh, I'll go ahead and do it and see what happens." St. Peregrine, Patron Saint of Cancer Victims, was chosen for me. One of my sisters had been diagnosed with breast cancer in April, 2015, so this saint (whom I had never heard of) intrigued me. I found a prayer to St. Peregrine online, and began my daily prayer (I'm "not-so-perfect", so I may have missed a couple of days since I've started!) for his intercession, and my "St. Peregrine list" began to grow. 
One of my sisters-in-law went to Italy with my niece over her spring break this past March. They were in Rome for Palm Sunday, and, while they were there, she found a prayer card to St. Peregrine at St. Peter's. She said it was a random shop, and the only Saint's card she saw was this one.  She bought some and put them in a basket for the Papal Blessing. This is the card I've used for the past 3 months during my morning prayers.
In the email that I opened this morning, the cafeteria manager said that her husband went to Duke last week, and the tumor is GONE. I had chills when I read that, and said a quick prayer of gratitude for this fantastic news! I realize that I'm not the only person praying for him, but there is no doubt that St. Peregrine had a hand in this!


worth revisit
I'm linking up with Theology is a Verb for It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday!

Friday, June 17, 2016

{SQT} BFFs, No Coincidence, and CCW


I’m linking up with Kelly from This Ain't the Lyceum again this week for another 7 Quick Takes.

After I read yesterday's Gospel reading, I thought that someone needed to write a book about the words of The Lord's Prayer. Shortly after I read the Gospel, I checked my email, and this was in it:
Jennifer Fulwiler sent this free ebook to her email subscribers as a thank you! And, if that wasn't enough, in the afternoon, on my way to an appointment, I listened to her  show. She said she had a hard time with the book and faced some adversities when putting it together; she almost scrapped the whole thing. She also said she had no idea what the readings were for the day. (It was The Lord's Prayer, by the way.)
There are no coincidences.
You can get the free ebook by subscribing to her email list here
I sent Jennifer (yep, I think we're on a first name basis!) an email telling her about my thoughts after reading the Gospel, and look what I got: (click on the picture for a better view)
Oh, yeah! She's definitely on the friend list now!
The appointment I went to was my yearly doctor's appointment for my "lady parts". Besides the prep that has to go into it (you ladies know what I mean!), does anyone else have a good time going to their gynecologist? (I don't mean to imply that the prep is fun, just necessary!)  I only see her once a year, but we talk like we're best friends. We talk about our kids, books, movies, whatever pops into our heads. We laugh, we're serious; it's just 2 ladies who only see each other once/year acting like they're BFFs.
Every year, my BFF/gyno asks me if I want a pap smear & every year I tell her yes. It's no ride at DisneyWorld, but cancer is nothing to play around with. It has to start somewhere. I have a family member who was diagnosed with breast cancer on her 57th birthday. We only have 1 instance of cancer anywhere in the family, and that was a maternal aunt who had ovarian cancer.  So, yeah. I'll take the discomfort of a pap smear to be on the safe side. (Oh, and my family member went through chemo; no signs of the breast cancer post treatment. In fact, there weren't any halfway through, but the treatment was continued.)
One of the things I talked to my BFF/gyno about was a flyer about domestic violence. The National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) sponsors a program called Women Healing the Wounds. I had the pleasure of listening to the developer, Kathy Bonner, during our Diocesan CCW Convention in April. She gave a powerful presentation about domestic violence. There is a flyer with tear off tabs that we're asking be placed in bathroom stalls. I (as well as my fellow CCW Officers) have been on a mission this summer to get them in faculty bathrooms in the local schools as well as in medical facilities. I told my BFF/gyno that I was going to say something to the office manager, but I wasn't sure if she would consider that being solicitation, so I just asked her. I haven't been turned down yet, and my offer to take the NCCW out of it has been met with "you don't need to do that". 
To get involved in helping get the word out, visit here, then scroll down to "Family", then click on "Women Healing the Wounds".
Is it just me, or does anyone else come up with great ideas for blog posts during Mass? And then, because, heeeelloooo, menopause, can't remember what those great ideas were once Mass is over? I've really come up with some great ones over the past 2 days, but for the life of me can't remember what they were.
I had a brilliant idea yesterday (again, during Mass, but this one I was able to hold on to!) for our parish CCW. At one time, our CCW was strong, but it's dwindled down in the past few years. We are in the rebuilding phase, so we're trying to get the ladies of the parish to get involved. We're "pounding the pavement" to build up the organization. If I talk with someone, I give them my email address and tell them to email me if they want to be included in our emails. One of the co-presidents just asks the ladies for their addresses so they can be placed on our list. My idea is to get business cards with the information (meetings, voluntary dues, FB page, etc.) so we can just hand them to ladies. No intimidation, no putting someone on the spot, just kind ladies handing out a little card with information on it! 

Do you have a CCW in your parish? If so, how active is it?





Sunday, June 12, 2016

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This week’s readings was chock full of stuff, wasn’t it? I went to Mass last night and didn't read the readings beforehand. I realized that reading before Mass definitely helps me understand and stay focused. I found my mind wandering just a tad, and, even during the Gospel found myself thinking, "Wow...this is a long one" instead of keeping focused on just what the deacon was reading. In a moment of sheer weakness, I even thought, "Okay, I've heard this story many times before...no reason to pay close attention." But, refocus I did, and I read the readings this morning on my back porch, listening to and watching the birds go about their morning business. I reflected on each passage...really reflected...and tried to open up my heart to just what was being said. 
The 2nd Reading really had me stumped: Aren't we supposed to make sure we obey the laws that are given to us through the government? Isn't that part of being a Christian? After giving it some thought, I realized that, yes, we are supposed to follow the laws of the land; however, when those laws don't quite jive with the laws that God has given us, we need to stick to our faith and our beliefs, because that's what will give us salvation. The recent uproar about the whole bathroom issue came to mind. The law may say it's okay for people to use the restroom that coincides with what gender they consider themselves to be, but we have a choice. We can accept that, or say no, and not frequent places that accept it.  Another issue that popped into my mind is that of abortion. The law may say it's okay to kill babies in utero, but that doesn't mean that we should partake in it. I read an article on UCatholic yesterday. A letter to a woman's physician was included...the woman had been advised to abort her baby because she had Down's Syndrome. Of course she refused and had her baby, who has been such a delight to her family. One of my own family members was advised to abort her son because some of the lab levels weren't coming back within the "normal" range. She & her husband agreed that abortion was not even an option for them. Her son is now 26, an alum from a large university, and is an officer in the armed forces. And there isn't a thing wrong with him.
Wow! A lot came out of that passage that I didn't understand when I first read it!  Now I'll climb off of my soapbox!
Forgiveness & mercy. That's what this Sunday's Gospel & 1st Reading are all about. David was given everything he could want, but he took what he shouldn't have. He took another life just so he could have the man's belongings, including his wife. He only had to ask for forgiveness (and mean it), and he was forgiven. That opens the door for all of us, no matter what we do, we can be forgiven. Even in those times when we feel as if we've done something so terrible, we will be forgiven.
Last night, the priest related the Gospel to not only forgiveness, but also mercy. He said that the "image of mercy is rooted in our need for God." We all need God's mercy because we are all sinners. We are called to be the woman in today's Gospel. He did mention that it was interesting that Luke called out the Pharisee by name, but not the woman. Why is that? Is it because, as Father said, we are called to be that woman; therefore we should see ourselves in her? If Luke had given her name, would we be able to identify ourselves with her, or would we say, "Oh, he's talking about the woman, (name)"? Father also said that "mercy offers forgiveness and peace. The only way to know mercy is to offer it to others." We, as Catholics, have the greatest gift of mercy through Reconciliation, for it is through that sacrament we can be forgiven...without being judged by another human.

Friday, June 10, 2016

{SQT} All Over the Place


I'm joining Kelly at  This Ain't the Lyceum for another Seven Quick Takes Friday.

1) I decided to take Sirius Radio up on an offer to resubscribe; this is why:
I just want to ride around in my car all day & listen to this channel. It's worth $30 for 6 months to be able to listen to Jennifer Fulwiler, Lino Rulli, and Father Dave Dwyer!

2) This has been a bit of a "yo-yo" week for me. Spiritually, I've been up...I've been down.  When I stopped & thought about what I did differently on the "down" day, it wasn't hard to figure it out: I didn't start the day with my prayers & daily readings. 

3) My husband & I took advantage of a cool evening the other day & enjoyed dinner on the porch...which is a rarity in the South in June.
4) It was even bearable yesterday during the afternoon, so I went out to enjoy the birds singing & read some of the book Our Lady of Kibeho (Immaculee  Ilibagiza). I looked up at the sky and saw clouds in the shape of angel wings: (You may have to click on the picture to see a bigger view)
5) Confession. Need I say anything else? I went on Saturday, and I think it was the most nervous I've ever been, but it was also the best one I've made in a long time. It's not my favorite thing to do (is it for anyone?), but it was definitely worth it.

6) Did you read yesterday's readings? Anger can lead to so many bad things. It makes you do crazy things. Are you one to fly off the handle but then calm down (like me), or do you hold grudges and let the anger fester inside you? If you're the latter, I urge you to get help. Talk to someone. It's not healthy for your body...or your soul.

7) One of the presidential candidates has had the gall to say that "religious beliefs have to be changed" (speech during "Women in the World Summit"). She needs our prayers, people; she needs our prayers.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Extraordinary Women

We all have extraordinary women in our lives. She could be our mother, sister, friend, colleague, or maybe she’s the woman we know from church who selflessly works at a non-profit organization helping families who have fallen on hard times.
Recently, some extraordinary women have come into my life. These women moved about an hour from my home, and have just reunited for the first time on the same campus.
These women are The Handmaids of the Precious Blood. They are cloistered nuns; their mission is to pray for priests.
I had the honor of meeting one of the nuns during the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (CCW) Convention in April. The one that I met has hiked mountains and broke the backboard of a basketball goal. Then, a few weeks ago, I had the great honor of meeting the Mother Prioress. 
The recent move of the monastery from New Mexico was miraculous in itself; heck, finding the property they did was quite a miracle! From finding just the right property to the cross on fireplace (which the original owner saw as a flaw in the stone and wanted it taken down after it was built), the story will give you chills and will let you know that the Lord was truly working for them. The move included not only the living nuns, but the remains of the deceased from their cemetery to a new resting place on the new grounds. 
On May 25th, the nuns celebrated their first Founders Day with all of the nuns under the same roof. It only took 69 years, but they did it, thanks to the move of the nuns from Illinois a couple of weeks prior. 
In a world where materialism seems to be everything, where girls are growing up and losing their innocence way to fast, these extraordinary women, The Handmaids of the Precious Blood, are holding fast to their beliefs and fervently praying for our priests...for ALL priests. Some are young, some are older, but they have the same vision, the same purpose.  What amazes me about the nun that I met at the convention, is that she is probably the youngest one there. She went to a public university, but yet she listened to the call and is living the life God chose for her. She knows about everything the world has to offer, yet she chose to listen. That, my friend, is an extraordinary woman!
You only have to look around to find extraordinary women in your life, in these “ordinary times”. Be open to acknowledging these women; your life will become blessed in so many ways if you only open up your heart!
To learn more about the Handmaids of the Precious Blood and find out how you can help them with their mission, please visit their website: nunsforpriests.org

Friday, June 3, 2016

{SQT} Summer Plans

Seven Quick Takes
Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum  for Seven Quick Takes.
1) It's not taken me long to get into a summer routine. Now that my parish offers a noon Mass on Tuesday/Thursday, I can sleep in a bit on those days. And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. I have these 2 dogs that will get me up at the same time every day...they're better than an alarm clock!
I do like going to Daily Mass in the summer. Getting there early to say the Rosary with my dad is one memory I'll be able to hold on when he's not here any longer. This morning, it was just the 2 of us reciting the Rosary for a couple of decades before some more people came in. It was really, really nice.

2) Reading. I read a lot in the summer. I've already read a few books so far. I'm trying to read 1 Catholic Book for every "regular" book I read. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!

3) Netflix. Seriously. Teachers/school employees will act like they're kidding about binge-watching Netflix, but they aren't kidding. At.All. Even though I've been pretty good about keeping my tv off, I've managed to watch the first season of a couple of shows so far. 

4) Cleaning. Ugh. Forget about spring cleaning; this is the time of year I get my house back in order. I clean/organize closets, the pantry, the refrigerator...you get the idea. I hope to have our bedroom painted in the next couple of weeks.

5) Believe it or not, school employees still work during the summer, even though we aren't getting paid. There is a teacher website where teachers can make materials and put it online to be sold. Kind of like an etsy for teachers. I've already put a new item in my store & am working on another. I took last week off, but now I'm back to working on that. 

6) CEUs. In my school system, we have to have so many hours of professional development on our own so we can have a couple of extra days off during the school year. I like to do mine online so I can do them when I want to.

7) Relaxing. Down-time is a must. We all need to get away from our hectic lives every now and then. Relaxing for me is doing all of the above, taking it slow, and doing what I want to do. 

1 more thing...this morning, I read/heard 3 different people mention how seeing the Sacred Heart of Jesus frightened them, and 2 of them were priests. I don't remember ever being scared of seeing the statue or icon. Funny how we have different reactions to things!

So...does this sound like your summer?


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Black Madonna

This post was originally published on 04/19/2011 on my blog Life in a Small Town, and is being posted here as an entry into the #WorthRevisit linky hosted by Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You.
Last week, during our Parish Mission, Father Simon spoke quite a bit about the "Black Madonna of Czestochowa".  She also called the "Queen of Poland".  Get ready to hear an amazing story.

Originally it was said that this icon was painted by St. Luke, who lived the same time as the Virgin Mary.  It is said to have been painted on the top of a table that was built by no other than Jesus Himself.  While St. Luke was painting the picture, Mary told him of Jesus' life, which is how St. Luke wrote his gospel.
However, the Pauline Fathers' website indicates that the icon was "probably from 9th century Greek or Italian origins with 13th century overpaintings."

The icon left Jerusalem and stayed in Constantinople at the urgency of St. Helena, who was Constantine's mother.  400 years later, it was used as a dowry for one of the princesses who married into the Russian Opolsey Family.  That family married into Polish royalty, which explains how the icon ended up in Poland.  Prince Ladislaus, ruler of Poland, decided to move the icon after the Tartans attacked the castle, and an arrow was shot through a window, slashing the icon on Our Lady's throat.  During the move to Opole for protection, Ladislaus stopped in Czestochowa for the night, and placed the icon in a church for safe-keeping.  The next morning, the horses were unable to pull the wagon.  After several unsuccessful attempts, the prince knelt in front of the icon and asked what he was suppose to do.  His answer came in the form of a dream:  He was instructed to leave the icon in Czestochowa and to have it enshrined on Jasna Gora (the highest place in the town).  The prince brought the Pauline Fathers from Hungary to Poland to guard over the icon.

Unfortunately, the icon was not completely safe.  During a raid in which many monks (who were trying to keep the icon safe) were killed,  religious artifacts were taken out of the church and were thrown into the vandals' cart.  They were 1 1/2 miles from the church when the horses stopped and could not be budged.  The icon was thrown on the ground, broken into 3 pieces, and slashed.  This is how the marks on Our Lady's face happened.  The vandal was about to do further damage, when he was struck by lightening and killed.  The other vandals ran away after seeing what happened.  The priests, upon seeing their beloved icon, knelt and prayed.  A spring suddenly appeared, and the priests used that water to clean the icon as best they could.  Saint Barbara's Church was built on that site to accommodate pilgrims who visited and were granted physical and spiritual healing.  Today, pilgrims to the shrine at Jasna Gora will see crutches and braces along the wall, visual signs of miracles that are attributed to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.  Pope John Paul II (who was Polish) credits his miraculous healing from the assassination attempt to the Black Madonna; he left the stole he was wearing when he got shot on the altar.

Tradition says that Our Lady is black because of the soot of the votive candles that have been placed around the icon.  The Pauline Fathers' site indicates that she is dark because of the paints that were used.  In the shrine, the icon is protected from fire and bullets through fire-proof and bullet-proof glass.  

When restoring the icon, the slashes on Our Lady's face were left alone, as a reminder of the desecration that the image suffered.  When I look at those slashes, I think about the hurt that Mary has gone through and is still going through:  Seeing her son crucified, as well as seeing nations turn against her son.  It's a reminder to me that my disappointments and sufferings are nothing compared to what she went through.  It's also a reminder that she understands and will intercede on my behalf.

Below is a clip of the song "Czarna Madonna" (Black Madonna).  The song starts in Polish; the English verses can be found around 1:50.

There's a corner of a country
Which the pilgrims gladly seek
Where in glory hangs the portrait
Of a Queen slashed on the cheek.
She is grieving, She is caring,
She invites us, everyone:
"I'm your Mother, be my daughter,
be my son."

Madonna, oh Black Madonna
I'm happy your child to be
Oh grant me, oh Black Madonna
That your arms may cradle me.

In your arms we find the refuge
And the warmth of your great love
In your arms we do find hope, joy
And the strength to go through life.
In your arms is found the Saviour
The Bread, The Truth and our Way,
In your arms is found the Peace
For which we search.

Madonna, oh Black Madonna
I'm happy your child to be
Oh grant me, oh Black Madonna

That your arms may cradle me.