Archive For The “Reflections” Category

5 Reasons I’m Grateful for 2020

5 Reasons I’m Grateful for 2020

2020 got one heck of a bad rap. Okay, it’s well deserved. But, we’re meant to be a people of thanksgiving, so I’d like to take a moment to focus on what I’m grateful for from this past year — and to actually recognize that there are many things to be grateful for which are unique to 2020 precisely because it was a difficult year.

As St. Paul tells us in one of my favorite scripture passages, “we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Thus, without further ado, here are five reasons I’m grateful for the year many hail as the worst year ever – 2020:

1. A New Prayer Cenacle

I had been thinking about doing this for eight years. Maybe more. Yes, I had the mom’s group at my church — a wonderful group of ladies I thoroughly enjoy. I found myself longing for something smaller and deeper, however, and I hoped for something that might involve the entire family.

The feeling that I needed to just do it kept mounting, and, together with my dear friend Tina, we finally took the plunge. Our little cenacle started as four moms, praying the Rosary together once a week followed by uplifting, faith-filled conversation that goes well beyond the surface. We added bi-weekly nights together with our families, including dinner, fellowship, and a group Rosary led by the children. We’ve added another mom and her family, and will be adding still another at our next meeting. Hailing from three different parishes, we are six moms, six fathers, and nineteen kids. With two babies on the way!

Aided by a babysitter and Tina’s kid-friendly house and amazing hostessing skills, in the past five months, we’ve shared some of the best discussions I’ve had in my entire life. The deep spirituality of these women leaves my mind spinning. I feel immense gratitude that I can be in the presence of such positive examples, and it was the events of 2020, when prayer became more important than ever, that finally tipped the scales and got it all started.

2. My “One Word” was Nothing Short of Prophetic

Surrender. That was my “one word” for 2020, and boy did it serve me well. Schools shut down and I said, “I’d asked for less chaos in our lives, Lord. This wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but… thank you.” Churches closed, and – while literally bawling my eyes out after receiving the Eucharist for what I knew would be the last time for a while – I said, “You will make good come from this, Lord.” Speaking engagements and personal history projects canceled and I said, “I trust in you to provide, Lord.”

Surrender was exactly what I needed, and the example my family needed. It’s what our Lord asks of each of us. This year He gave us all ample opportunities to practice it — or not. I was incredibly blessed to have the grace of already having the word on my lips, the concept in my mind, the prayer on my heart. Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything. 

3. The “Pray” Novena App

In a normal year, I probably pray twelve novenas, maybe fifteen, max. Not this year. This year, I discovered the Pray app, and I prayed not fifteen, not twenty, but twenty-seven novenas.

Most noteworthy? Perhaps the Our Lady of Sorrows novena, in which I asked Our Lady to reveal to me my deepest fault (following advice from Fr. Chad Ripperger). On the day I finished the novena, my deepest fault was revealed. It struck to the core and was one of the best spiritual exercises I did for the year. I also prayed a novena to St. Joseph for provision, and got a call from a new client the next day. And, of course, I prayed the Surrender novena several times. It brought me peace and increased surrender each time!

This was all thanks to the Pray app. It provides a wealth of novenas, sends reminders, keeps track of what novenas you’ve prayed and when. Available for both Apple and Android, I loved it so much a sprang for the “canonization partner” upgrade so I’d have access to more novenas. I highly recommend you download it. (And, no, I’m not getting anything in return for my endorsement!)

4. More Time with Family

It doesn’t matter how many kids you have, how helpful your spouse might be, how much you love your job, or what sort of awesome community you’re a part of. Life in the 21st century has a tendency to get off the rails with busy-ness. That’s absolutely how things felt in early March, when I had five kids who often needed to be five different places, a hubby who needs help getting to work, a business to run, a house to clean, groceries to shop for, yadda, yadda, yadda.

And then it all came to a screeching halt. No school. No CYO sports. No meetings. No… anything. Seriously, I looked around and saw my entire family at home day after day, night after night, and I said, Thank you, Lord. While, okay, I admit to absolutely hating trying to support kids during elearning, and oviously not having the Mass was awful, the rest of it was… a breath of fresh air. I intentionally set my work aside, for the most part, and focused on my family. We played games, we took walks, we prayed, we talked. It was lovely, and I’ll forever be grateful for those months in which bonds were forged which will never be broken.

5. The Winnowing Away of that Which is Unimportant

In difficult times, we must choose that which is most important to us. 2020 was a year for such choices. I gave some things up. Time spent that wasn’t aiding in my path to sainthood. Money spent that wasn’t adding to our financial well-being. There’s more winnowing to do, but it’s progress, and I’m grateful for the necessity to have made it.

How about you? What are you most grateful for in 2020? Please share in the comments!

The Healing Power of Faith

The Healing Power of Faith

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured. (Matt 9:20-22)

The Healing Power of the Eucharist

A young woman was in a terrible car accident when she was in college. It left her with a brain injury and paralysis, among other challenges. Several years after the accident, she attended a healing Mass. The priest read the story of the woman with a hemorrhage (Matt 9:20-22) and encouraged the faithful in attendance to believe that, if God willed it, they too would be healed. He then made a Eucharistic procession around the church and invited the sick to touch the tassels of the veil with which he held the monstrance, trusting in the healing power of Christ through the Eucharist. This young woman was hesitant but, encouraged by her mother, reached out her right* hand to touched the garment which held the Eucharist. The right side of her body was healed.

It was this young woman’s mother to whom I spoke when I was struggling with the challenges of living with brain injury in our family. “I pray the Rosary every day,” I told her. “I spend time in scripture, I journal. These are the things that always used to help me stay on track. But it’s not enough now. I still feel totally overwhelmed. I’m impatient and I anger easily. I don’t even recognize myself at times. What else can I do?”

“How often are you receiving the Eucharist?” the woman asked.

I went to Mass every Sunday, of course, and I tried to make it to daily Mass at least once a week. But I had every reason in the world, as a busy mother and brain-injury-caregiver, to not go every day!

This wise woman told me to find a way, however, and I did. Well, okay… not every day, but much more often than I had been going! The effects were remarkable. I noticed that the days I went to Mass seemed more fruitful and productive—completely obliterating the “I don’t have time” excuse! More importantly, I saw a change within myself that was nothing short of miraculous. I grew more patient, more compassionate, more loving, more peace- and joy-filled.

Like the hemorrhaging woman, I needed healing, and that healing was made available to me when I approached our Lord in the Eucharist with faith in His healing power.

Healing that Saves

While physical healings such as the woman with the hemorrhage, or the young woman I described, are a dramatic show of God’s power, love, and mercy, they are not always God’s will. Spiritual healing, however, is, for it is in spiritual healing that we become more like Christ and more pleasing to our Creator.  It is through spiritual healing that we grow closer to God and, as such, that we experience the peace and joy that only Christ can give. It is in this peace and joy that we bear witness to the world and bring other souls to Christ, as well.

As to my own family’s story, I can witness this: God, in his all-loving and all-knowing goodness has not seen fit to give my husband, Ray, the physical healing for which I’ve prayed. Yet, He, in His merciful kindness, has given us spiritual healings beyond telling. Ray has a childlike faith he might never have attained in his former brilliance of mind. My children have seen the words “God will provide” proven in dramatic and very tangible ways. They’ve witnessed answers to a volume of prayers that might otherwise have taken a lifetime to accrue. And I, while still far, far from perfect, consider the journey of the past five years and recognize in myself a growth in grace and virtue that only hardship could have wrought. And in all these things I rejoice, knowing that these spiritual goods are far more important than any temporal, physical thing.

I wonder, after the woman had been healed, did she look back on the previous twelve years and lament her trials? Or did she rejoice in the lessons she learned through them? Did she wish she’d never been sick and desperate for healing? Or did she give thanks that her healing stood as witness to grow the faith of others? Two thousand years later, her story is still being told, and it’s a story that would never have been written had she not endured the challenge of twelve long years and, still, reached out a hand in faith.

Whatever challenges you are facing, whatever sufferings you are called to endure, reach out to Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. Hear His words, as true for you today as they were for the woman thousands of years ago: Courage, daughter. Your faith has saved… is saving… will save… you.

*I may have the specific side of the young woman’s body wrong here. Whichever side it was – right or left – with which she touched the veil, the same side was healed!
Seeking the Face of God

Seeking the Face of God

I was struck today by Christ’s words in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” I thought of Christ’s face, pierced by thorns, spat upon, sweat-laden, as He died on the cross. We’ve seen that face — depicted in artwork, portrayed in movies, and on the Shroud of Turin, which science has shown truly represents the Holy Face of Christ. It is a face of love, gentleness, self-sacrifice, and mercy.

Christ and God are part of the Divine Trinity. They are mysteriously One, yet not one-and-the-same. The Father is not human, His Face is beyond our imagining. The Jews believed that, if they looked upon it, they would die. Yet, what we see written on the face of Christ — love,  gentleness, self-sacrifice, and mercy — are written on the face of God, as well.

Shortly after I’d meditated upon John 14:9, a friend sent another scripture verse. In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, the Lord tells Solomon, “If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.”

It seemed like no coincidence that those two scriptures should come across my path this morning. Our God is merciful, loving, and just. In the midst of this “pandemic,” He asks that we humble ourselves, pray, turn from sin, and seek His face. In His loving care, He has given us even more than His Word in the scriptures. He’s given us His Son, Jesus Christ, that we may better know Him, and better seek Him. Even when we can’t receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we have this. The very Face of the Son of God, who is God.

Ours is not an angry God. The bad things He allows to happen are due to the freedom of will He has so generously given all mankind. Even when we must suffer consequences from that freedom, He is merciful and loving. He will never give us more than we can bear. His yoke is easy and His burden light, when we seek His face. As the trials of these days lengthen and grow heavier, may we put our trust in Him and seek His face, knowing that He will hear us. He will pardon our sins. He will heal our land.

Thanks be to God.

That Time I Came Home From Lourdes and Found My Simon of Cyrene

That Time I Came Home From Lourdes and Found My Simon of Cyrene

“Jesus Falls for the First Time” from the life-sized Stations of the Cross at Lourdes

My last post left off with me a blubbering mess – sunken into a jet-lagged, hormone- and stress-induced pit of despair from which only medical pharmacology was able to drag me.

Looking back, I have to laugh at myself, while also acknowledging that – yeah, I had totally legitimate reasons for falling under the weight of responsibility.

But here’s the beauty of it – even Christ fell under the weight of his cross. Three times, in fact – showing by his perfect example that we, in our humanity, can only take so much. At the same time, demonstrating the need to seek and accept help, as Christ received the help of Simon the Cyrene in carrying his cross.

I’d already been blessed by so many “Simon’s” – friends, family, and strangers who brought us meals and did my grocery shopping throughout the first several months of Ray’s recovery. Those who watched my kids so that I could be with him in the hospital or take him to therapy; those who provided a cleaning lady so I’d have one less thing to worry about; those who donated to our GoFundMe account or just randomly slipped a check into my hand; and, of course, those who lifted us up in prayer.

But this event last spring was a private cross. Whereas our entire community – and beyond – knew about the initial heart attack and brain injury, I was the only one that knew that I was caving under the weight of that same cross which had been placed on me more than a year and a half before. My family was already helping as much as could possibly be expected. They regularly watched the kids, helped with driving and meals, and more. Ray’s parents lived a half hour away, and the long drive made it impossible for them to help often.

I was on my own.

Only, I wasn’t. Duh.

First, so that I could think straight, our wonderful babysitter Hannah, came over and transformed the house into one I could at least live in. Something so simple, and yet it was enough to help me see through the mess and begin to prioritize. I turned to prayer, and the next day – once the jet lag and the anti-anxiety meds had worn off – I felt more myself. My problems weren’t resolved, but they seemed a lot more manageable.

When faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, the best Christian prayer might be as simple as “God, show me the way.” It’s one I pray often. In the immediate aftermath of that crash into self-pity I prayed, God, show me the way. His answer came in a very unexpected way – an unlikely “Simon of Cyrene.”

Going to Lourdes had set me on fire for pilgrimage. While we were there, I began to dream of being able to take each of my kids on a pilgrimage for their high school graduation. Two days after we returned home, I looked up prices. While it was actually less than the cost of going to Disney World, it still wasn’t something that I would ever be able to afford under our current circumstances.

Okay, God. I have to believe you want my children to go on pilgrimage, because I know they’d grow closer to you. If you want this, please show me the way.

And then I got an email from a pilgrimage company. My name had found its way to their email distribution list when I attended a movie night they hosted a few months before. Their offices are local, and the owner of the company happens to be a parishioner at my church. They were hiring.

A communications director.

The person needed to be a proficient writer, fluent in social media and email marketing, motivated, and passionate about helping others.

Hmmm. Interesting.

But, seriously, God, I’m sure your answer to my problem of being crushed under the weight of responsibility is not that I should get a job. 

So I left the email in my inbox and resolved to forget pray about it.

And then a friend texted me. She’d seen a job opportunity that I’d be perfect for.

Ugh. I guess I really do have to pray about this. 

And so it was that a week later I found myself in a job interview. And afterwards I sobbed because I knew I’d get the job. For days weeks I cried every time I thought about being away from my kids.

But at the same time, new possibilities opened up. Maybe I’d actually be able to pay for a little bit of therapy for Ray. Maybe I could finally hire a cleaning lady. Maybe we could take a family vacation. Surely I’d be able to send each of my children on a pilgrimage at some point in their lives if I was actually working for a pilgrimage company!

For many years, whenever money got tight, I’d pray, God, if you want me to get a job, please make it abundantly clear, and show me the job you want me to have. Every time, money would providentially appear. An unexpected check in the mail, a gift from a friend, a refund I hadn’t known was coming, the food not ringing up at the grocery store and the manager giving it to me for free. Again, and again, and again. But now, God was making it abundantly clear, and he had, indeed shown me the job. Now, I prayed, God, I think you want me to do this. If not, please close this door.

And the door opened wider. Could my “Simon of Cyrene” be… a job?

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

Wasteland Prevention (and so much more): My True Feelings About Confession

  I’m joining up with the CWBN blog hop’s topic this month – “My True Feelings about Confession.” As it happens, this is a favorite topic of mine. So, grab your coffee and settle in, because I’ve got a story to go along with my outpouring of emotion over this particular sacrament! Here goes… When…

Forgiving the Unforgivable, Loving the Unlovable

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).  Christ gave the command, and greeting Saul in Acts 9, Ananias provided the example, calling his persecutor his brother. Saul – soon to be Paul – had encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, and was blinded after seeing the bright light of Christ.  As Saul…

#WorthRevisit – Savor the Silence

I get it honestly.  Walk into my parents’ home, and you are guaranteed to find the TV in the kitchen blaring with either Fox News or HGTV.  Though she rarely sits down to watch it, my mom just enjoys the background noise. With four young children running around the house, I hardly need a television for…

#WorthRevisit – Stepping Out of Safety

As Jesus walked to Golgotha, bearing the stripes of our sins and the weight of our follies, one woman stood watching. Her heart ached to see this man, who only days before had been welcomed into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!”, now beaten down and trudging toward his terrible death. The story doesn’t tell us…

One Year Later – The Spiritual Journey

Wow. It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of Ray’s heart attack and subsequent brain injury. My goal is to publish a series of posts in the next few days, chronicling at least a little bit of our journey. First, though, I want to share a little bit of the…

#WorthRevisit: The Fruit of an Upbraiding

Very recently, a Sister in Christ who was once a friend said some very hurtful things to me.  It’s been a long time since such a thing has happened, but goodness knows humility’s not my strong suit, so the occasional upbraiding is probably well deserved. Since the purpose of this blog is to write about the good,…

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