Archive for the ‘healing’ Category

Duty is not a dirty word

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Today is Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.

For the last ten days, my parish (St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA) has been praying the nine-day novena to the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this novena, a 40-hour devotion was held in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I tried to live up to my duty and participate fully in this prayerful time but fell flat after the fifth day of the novena. Still, I was looking forward to mass this Sunday in my church.

However, duty called.

King George VI understood about duty, despite his stuttering which made speech making nearly impossible.

Attending to my duty

As some of you already know, my husband Rich is a deacon in the Melkite Church which is Eastern Catholic. The liturgy is celebrated in the Byzantine tradition. It is a beautiful celebration that touches greatly upon the mystery that is our faith.

My feet of clay

I am not always up to the lofty state of mind that one needs to be in to attend these liturgies. It requires that you stand for pretty much the whole hour. This is a challenge for my bad feet and sore back.

The liturgy is entirely sung. Everyone sings which is commendable but the singing isn’t always good. Unless I am caught up in the Spirit of God, the singing can prove to be quite distracting.

I am not proud of the fact that these minor matters get in the way of worshipping God during these liturgies. But they do.

I really wanted to worship at my parish where the music can soar. But duty came first.

Saying goodbye

Rich had told me earlier in the week that a longtime and key member of his church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), Corinne, was leaving the state to be near her children. This woman had served Our Lady of Perpetual Help for 30 years and would be sorely missed.

Corinne had been one of many at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who had welcomed me as one of their own.  I wanted to say goodbye and wish her well.

Duty called, and I chose to attend liturgy at my husband’s church rather than our own.

Where duty led me

Each morning I dedicate my day to God with a prayer that Henri Nouwen prayed. In part it says, “I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

I attended the liturgy. As a result, I experienced a gentle outpouring of the Spirit which I know I would have missed had I not done my duty.

The Spirit brings life

It began during the homily as Fr. Paul spoke of different times in the Scriptures when the Spirit was mentioned. He recalled Ezekiel 37 when the prophet Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones come alive again into living, breathing people because he did his duty by obeying God and prophesying over them. A valley of bones rose to new life as a result.

The Spirit promises

Fr. Paul also mentioned Joel 2:28 and the promise of the Spirit:

It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.

What had the Spirit done for me?

It was then that I began to reflect upon the remarkable yet quiet transformation that had been going on in my life since I lost my mother two years ago.

In thinking about those readings, I realized that I was like those dry bones in the valley, brought back to life. I was dreaming dreams again. All of this because of the outpouring of the Spirit into my life.

Personal Pentecost

I began to experience a personal moment of Pentecost, becoming suddenly very aware of God’s presence pressing in on me from all sides. Rather than feeling oppressed, I felt liberated, deeply loved, and grateful for the wondrous gift God had bestowed on me in the wake of my grief.

And all this I was privy to because I had opted to do my duty.

Duty can be beautiful

Doing one’s duty is the most basic reason for doing anything. But as frail humans, sometimes it’s all we’re capable of at that moment.

How wonderful God is that He will bless my performance of duty! Because I had demonstrated to Him an openness to whatever He had in mind for me, I was able to receive His blessing.

Duty had opened the door.

I had prayed it that morning and performed it through my duty: “”I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

The beautiful heart of St. Paul

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Reflection on today’s readings (May 23, 2012) Acts 20:28-38; Psalm 68:29-30,33-36, John 17:11-19

Many women do not like St. Paul. I am not one of them.

Ever since I asked St. Paul to intercede for me for a special need (more on that in a moment), I have found myself reflecting on his life, his writings, and his enormous contribution to Christianity.

From Acts Chapter 20

Today’s reading from Acts moved me deeply. I found myself welling up as I imagined Paul’s impassioned plea to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus. Knowing they would never see them again, they wept openly, throwing their arms around him and kissing him.

Saying goodbye

Any mother knows the pain of an empty nest when the son or daughter leaves home for the last time. You struggle to hold it in so you won’t embarrass yourself and often times you just can’t help it. I had said what I thought was the final goodbye a few times to my son, first when he went off to college and lastly, when he moved to a neighboring town. That last time was especially hard. Now he is moving out of state at the end of the summer and I haven’t dared to begin thinking about that yet!

Paul’s attributes

What I love about St. Paul is his commitment, love and fortitude. This man emptied himself each and every day out of love for his Lord, but also for love of the people he was sent to minister to. There was never any hesitation. He never pulled back, never worried about what others would think of him. He was focused only on pleasing his Lord.

Knowing who you are

Paul was fully aware of what he had been. He had been forgiven of some pretty horrendous sins and he never forgot to be grateful for the privilege of carrying the Good News. That gratefulness acted like gasoline on the fire of his love.

A special intercessor

I especially love St. Paul’s focus and the example he uses of the marathon runner with the eye on the prize. About a year ago, for some reason, I asked  St. Paul to intercede for me for a very specific intention. I asked him to run beside me whenever I found myself stuck in traffic when I desperately needed to relieve myself. Because of a medical condition, this happens frequently. The pain is unlike any I’ve known and the emotional distress makes the pain more acute.

At the first sign of trouble, I call upon St. Paul to run beside me and we run together. Taking on his focus, my emotions are controlled and the pain is less acute. As a result of these encounters, I have developed an affection for St. Paul which has caused me to read more carefully the extraordinary writings which built on the foundation of our faith.

Empty, and beautiful

It is no wonder that the presbyters at Ephesus felt such a strong connection with Paul who, for 3 years, had spent his life for them. Each day, he was empty, and beautiful.

And I think of that man, that saint, running beside me, comforting me in my little trouble. How good our God is to provide these wonderful saints for us!

Matt Maher, a Christian singer and songwriter, recorded a wonderful song about St. Paul that he called Empty and Beautiful. As you watch the video below, think on today’s reading and the man who knew exactly who he was and what had been given to him. He knew too what to give back and why.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhaHB1Cad_4

Rising to new life

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Lord Jesus, lift me from the death of sin to new life!
Christ is risen, He is truly risen!

Reflection on readings for May 5 – Acts 13:44-52, Psalm 98:1-4; John 14:7-14

Acts 13: 44-52: Paul and Barnabas had preached the Word of God to the people and many were receptive to the message. But the Jewish leaders were resistant and stirred up trouble, inciting prominent women and leaders to create an atmosphere of persecution. Scripture tells us the Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy when they saw the crowds, to the point of violence.

What was pushing their hot button?

Being Chosen

For generations the Israelites were known as the Chosen People. One could get accustomed to that, being chosen. It could be clung to as a title; one could take pride in it.

One could say that because they were chosen, others were not. A sense of superiority and entitlement could rise up as a result.

Leaders of the Chosen

The Jewish leaders were not only chosen, they were also appointed as leaders over the chosen, making their position even more important. Leadership mixed with pride created the perfect breeding ground for jealousy, and for a closed mind and heart.

Unmoved

Now these leaders were witnessing their people being swayed by the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. If the people came to believe in Jesus, the leaders could lose their power and position.

The leaders desperately clung to their power. Pride blinded them to something so much greater. For leaders, their vision was small indeed.

In danger of clinging

What am I clinging to that blocks my vision? Am I proud of my accomplishments and am I ambitious for more? Are there things in this world that I love so much that it competes with my love for God and His people?

Tug of war

In the last couple of years, the Lord has lead me into reading and writing. I had not read on a regular basis since I was a child and now suddenly I live to read. Reading has born its fruits in a new love for writing. I find myself hungering to immerse myself all the time in these pursuits. I take pride in all that I am learning.

And yet, I feel the tug of competition between my new passion and my love for the Lord. I schedule time in the morning to read and reflect on the scriptures, and also to pursue my new passion. I feel that urge to “hurry up” with the scripture study so that I can get to what I “really” love.

And yet God gave me this new love! What sense does this make?

Worshipping the gift or the Giver?

Like the Jewish leaders being blinded by their love of power and position, denying themselves eternal life with Jesus, my passion for reading and writing can do the same. Even if the gift came from God, the gift can never become a god in and of itself; it must be lorded over by the only true God.

Lift me up

And so I pray for Jesus to offer his hand and lift me from this sin as He lifted Adam and Eve out of Hades and to new life  as shown in the above icon.

I ask Him to help me bring all the pieces of my life together into one whole, fully integrated so that there is no competition.

Nothing must compete with the only thing that truly matters – a growing, vibrant loving relationship with Jesus.

What’s blocking your vision?

 

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

In following up on the previous post, the sacrament of Reconciliation is a one of healing, directed at the soul. The Church provides another sacrament that addresses physical ailments and their emotional and spiritual dimensions in the Anointing of the Sick. Genevieve Kineke, in The Authentic Catholic Woman reminds us that this sacrament is far more than than the giving of last rites:

  • It grants the sick person peace and courage to bear the infirmity
  • It helps the sick person to recognize that the infirmity is linked directly to Christ
  • It binds together the sick person with the community as we all come together to pray for the sick and offer up their infirmities
  • When given at the point of death, it gives the sick person grace for the journey

(pages 35-36, The Authentic Catholic Woman)

Kineke maintains that women by necessity are especially skilled at offering healing since it usually falls to them to care for their families (page 36, Ibid). From nursing babies to caring for children with the cold or flu, to taking care of elderly parents, women have many opportunities to offer healing and comfort to others. A natural outgrowth of this is the nursing profession (although it didn’t emerge as a profession until the Civil War). While the doctor may diagnose the ailment and perform the procedures necessary for the healing, the nurse is the one who administers the vital care, both physical and emotional.

There are so many opportunities to be the image of Jesus to the sick, both in taking care of physical needs and spiritual ones. Sickness makes one very vulnerable, and possibly open to spiritual matters. Thus, taking care of of the sick is a corporate work of mercy that mirrors the Church in its concern for the soul (page 38, Ibid).

I recall reading a book by my favorite author, Louisa May Alcott, about her experiences as one of the first nurses in the Civil War. Louisa was itching to serve her country and would have fought had she been permitted to, but instead, took care of the wounded. Her book, Hospital Sketches, her first real success as an author, tells poignant tales of her encounters with the soldiers. She wrote of bathing their wounds, administering medicines, writing letters to loved ones, or just holding the hand of soldiers as they died and offering comfort. Alcott was gifted at nursing, having cared for her dying sister Elizabeth (Beth of Little Women ). Her care of the soldiers was indeed a corporate work of mercy.
(If you wish to read more about Louisa May Alcott as a Civil War nurse, check out my blog called Louisa May Alcott is My Passion.)

Some of my fondest memories of my mother were of her taking care of me when I was sick. She was the best. Although my mother (because of her New England Yankee heritage) was not normally physically affectionate, I could so feel her love and care whenever I was sick. She was extremely thoughtful. I recall as a child, lying on the couch sick, and she came home from shopping with a special book for me called The Littlest Angel. Even now thinking of that book, I feel an urge to cry because the love shown by the gift of that book touched my heart so deeply. Caring for the sick involves such little acts of love and they mean so very much.

When my mother became elderly, I was able to return the favor. I did not immediately embrace the job but rather grew into it. It was hard watching her fading away and even more difficult knowing that she suffered from despair, having no faith in God and even, at times, being hostile to the idea of God. She was not easy to be with but I know she appreciated whatever I could do (along with my sister and brother).

Despite dementia and a morphine haze, my mother knew that we loved her and demonstrated that love to my sister the day before she died through a look she gave to her. My sister was able to discern the meaning of that look and knew my mother had communicated, “I love you” and “thank you” through her eyes.

The Lord orchestrated a way for my mother to receive last rites from the only priest she ever trusted, the one who had ministered to my father. My sister and I were both at the ER when my mother was brought in but the nurse approached me, asking if we wanted to bring in a priest or minister. I hesitated momentary because I knew my mother would object but then decided that since I was the one being asked, I would say “yes.” That “yes” brought in Fr. Giggi and I knew from then on my mother would be okay. As mentioned before, the administration of last rites grants the dying the grace to make the journey. I actually didn’t know that at the time but now as I write this, I see that granting my mother the ability to receive last rites helped her on her journey home to God. It was something I had prayed for in earnest for years.

Miracles happen every day in the smallest ways. In some ways, these are the greatest and sweetest miracles. It is a constant reminder that the details really do matter. God works through us in the small things of life. Offering the comfort of healing to others really gets down to the nitty gritty of imitating our Lord. He rarely healed from afar but most times touched the person He was healing. How fortunate we are as women to have been especially gifted with the ability to offer healing to others! It is the most beautiful of gifts.

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

 

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Woman’s intuition is sometimes scoffed at, but as women, we know that we possess something akin to radar when it comes to sensing the moods and needs of others. In chapter 3 of  The Authentic Catholic Woman, Genevieve Kineke draws the connection between the sacrament of reconciliation and the unique ability of women to sense hurts and needs, and offer healing. Knowing how to build bridges that heal rifts in relationships brings others closer to our Lord, making us as women agents of reconciliation (pg. 32, The Authentic Catholic Woman).

Jesus as the supreme agent of reconciliation died on the cross to take on the sins of the world. Even as He was dying, He forgave those who crucified Him (“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”) and offered salvation to the penitent thief through forgiveness. The prayer which He Himself taught the apostles says, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us . . .” We are required to be such agents of reconciliation in order to receive the same from our Heavenly Father. In everything we do, we are to imitate Christ, and what better way than to offer healing through our abilities as peacemakers.

We all know that family life is full of conflict, both large and small (pg. 32, The Authentic Catholic Woman). Nothing hurts more than a falling out between a husband and wife, or a parent and child. Since we are the most vulnerable with regards to members of our family, we are open to being hurt emotionally and sometimes physically. The rifts in the family (the domestic Church) are a small reminder of the disunity in the universal Church, and the pain we feel is the pain Christ knew over these conflicts. Kineke reminds us to unite our own sufferings with Christ as the work of restoration is hard, involving much suffering (pg 33, Ibid).

In the end it comes down to love versus fear, and only love can offer reconciliation and renewal. Fears of getting involved or getting hurt serve only to block reconciliation from happening. We have to step out boldly to affect reconciliation.

I have to admire my two cousins, sons of my father’s brother. For some reason which we will never know (since my uncle has since passed on), my uncle became very angry with our family after my father passed away. At the time it seemed like a small slight with regards to funeral preparations, but it blew up into a feud. It was irrational (and perhaps based on the fact that we did not reach out enough when he lost his wife to cancer years ago), but because it was irrational, I immediately let it go. There was no point in holding on to it. I was sad that he no longer wanted anything to do with us, but reaching out was fruitless.

Or was it? When my aunt (his sister) passed away, we all went to the wake and funeral. During the wake, we spoke at length with my uncle’s oldest son who is truly an extraordinary man. He decided not to involve himself in his father’s feud with us and was very gracious to us (even through my uncle tried to perpetuate the feud even during the wake!). At the dinner after the funeral, I could see how the younger son was torn between loyalty to his father and the absurdity of the feud.

Unfortunately the feud was never reconciled as my uncle was not interested in resolving it or even discussing it. But his sons continued to reach out to us and we to them with Christmas cards and lovely sympathy cards from each of them after my mother’s passing. While it was not possible to reconcile with my uncle, the feud died with him because his sons were willing to take the chance and reach out. I am eternally grateful to the both of them, and their mother would have been proud. Perhaps she, in her spot in heaven, helped to act as the agent of reconciliation between the two families. We’ll find out when we all meet again.

Remembering my brave nephews reminds me that it is always worth it to stick your neck out and try to affect reconciliation. This is what Jesus’ mission was all about and it needs to be my personal mission as well.

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Chapter 2 of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman moves from the sacrament of baptism as it relates to purifying and hospitality, to our sustenance – food in its everyday and heavenly forms.

She is, of course, referring to the sacrament of Communion and the Eucharist, the true and real presence of Jesus Christ in the physical form of bread.

The theme of bread

Bread is a core theme throughout the Bible.  God rains down manna (bread) from heaven for the Israelites, sustaining them during their 40 year trek across the desert to the Promised Land:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”  (Exodus 16, 4-5)

Jesus as bread

In the gospels, Jesus feeds the 5000 (Matthew 14:13–21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15), taking five loaves and two fish and miraculously multiplying them to feed the multitudes. He takes it a step further as shown in John 6, declaring Himself to be the bread of life:

Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them,  I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:26-35)

During the Last Supper, Jesus makes good on His word, offering Himself as the Bread of Life by instituting the sacrament of Communion during the last passover meal he was to share with the apostles:

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying,“This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:19-20)

How can the Eucharist make meal time sacred?

Kineke, taking the literal meaning of bread as food, demonstrates how we can live out our daily tasks of preparing and serving food sacramentally by reflecting on the meaning of the Last Supper. What really happened here?

Jesus gave of Himself in totality to his disciples (and the world), sustaining them in all ways through the gift of the Eucharist. We too can offer ourselves, perhaps not as dramatically as did Christ, but through our daily meal preparation and service.

I am no cook but my husband and his family are wonderful cooks. Much love goes into the preparation of meals, done with utmost care and often, as in the case of my sister-in-law, with an artistic flair. I found meal time at my in-law’s house to be a time of healing and consolation. In my own home, due to a member of the family having an eating disorder, formal meal time first became battlefields and then dissolved altogether with the exception of the holidays. It became too painful to eat at the table so meals were taken in front of the TV.

At my in-law’s home, meals were eaten slowly at the table. Filled with laughter, stories and love, the food seemed to taste extra good in that setting of warmth. Once again, mealtime was a time of family getting together and sharing their love with one another. Holiday meals especially were legendary! :-)

Keeping this in mind, I tried to make sure my own family sat down together  at the table to eat rather than in front of the TV. As the children grew older, this became more challenging with school and work. Yet, every now and then when both kids are at home for a visit, I will get the request: “Can we eat at the table?” So while we weren’t always at the table when we ate, everyone intuitively knew that gathering at the table was special.

Where and how we feed others

Most women seem to be especially adept at feeding others, and we do it in so many places:

  • in the womb
  • from the breast
  • at the dinner table
  • at a picnic table
  • at a soup kitchen
  • spoon feeding an elderly parent

Feeding others is an act of giving of ourselves and it always needs to focus on others. If it turns into a performance where we are inviting praise or are too stressed out over the preparation, the point is lost. By focusing on the sacramental nature of feeding (reflecting on the ways Jesus gave of Himself as food), we find the richness that is hidden behind the veil of ordinary life (The Authentic Catholic Woman, page 23). The mundane becomes sacred.

So even for those of us who are not good cooks, we too can give love and sustenance to others through our humble efforts, especially if it is done in the spirit of love. This is something I need to think about the next time I struggle over making a meal that may be far from perfect. Perfection in the art of cooking is not the aim. Rather, what counts is the love that is put into it with the intent of giving that love to others. This lifts even the plainest of meals into something sacred, and beautiful.

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

Letting Go of Fear

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

(The Red Room website was calling for articles about letting go in honor of Lent so I submitted this post. This isn’t really about Lent, but it is about letting go, and it shows that it doesn’t have to be swift and painful for it to work. God is gracious and merciful).

I profess to have faith in God and as such, am supposed to trust in God. But when it came to the family finances, I never seemed to be able to find that pool of trust.

My husband and I are talented at many things, but managing money is not one of them. Even though my husband works as a financial analyst, he has no interest in using those talents to balance our checkbook. I am quite motivated, but often have to add up the numbers more than once on the calculator to get the right answer.

As a result, we always seemed to be in financial trouble, and this caused me a lot of stress. It would usually play out in the wee hours of the morning, the dreaded 4 o’clock hour: waking up, stomach hurting and palms sweaty over the big monster in the closet. Somehow that monster always shrank when the sun would rise and I’d get up for the day. The monster may not have been physically present, but the fear was very real.

I prayed to God about our finances. First it was, “Please send us extra money get through the month.” Then it was, “Please teach us how to handle our money.” I wanted a miracle, I wanted to win the lottery. But that’s not how God works.

Finally, a few years ago, something broke and it came about because of a purchase: the purchase of a tandem kayak.

We had moved into an area full of lakes, streams and ponds, and my husband kept bugging me to use the credit card and purchase a kayak. I have abhorrence for credit cards and kept saying no, but finally to keep the peace, I gave in. It turned out to be a momentous decision.

Some husbands and wives should never work together and that was us – just too competitive, each of us always wanting to come out on top. Yet, when the kayak came, that all changed. Very naturally we took our places – he handled the physical end of the boat (how to put it up on the car, how to carry it, etc.) and he graciously allowed me to sit up in the front to determine where we would paddle to. The smooth silence of the water complemented by the beautiful hot summer days made for blissfully peaceful trips down lazy rivers and streams. We’d drift and look at birds, run our hands through the warm water, stop to go fishing, all the while talking to each other in soft voices. In the kayak, I could let go of everything that was bothering me.

Winter came and the kayak was put away but I longed for that peace and harmony to continue, especially when I’d wake up at 4am worrying about money. That’s when God went to work, slowly changing me, pouring His grace upon me like a light mist falling on fallow ground, until that ground became soft and bore fruit. He used the imagery of the kayak trip to teach me about floating down His river of grace, all the while letting go and letting Him steer. Slowly I shed the worries that burdened me and turned them over to Him, letting them flow downstream. I began to sleep through the night and let the sun wake me up in the morning rather than the monster in the closet.

I learned how to let go of my fear. I learned how to trust. The good and gentle God took me by the hand, used something that was so sweet and delicious to me and taught me how to trust. And I haven’t turned back since.

“Loving God . . . Loving Neighbor: A Lenten Transformation” Retreat Wrap-up

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

This past weekend (March 11-13), my partner Ann Wagstaff and I had the privilege of presenting to a group of extraordinary women at the Vita Nova Women’s retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Center in Greenfield, NH. The weekend exceeded our wildest expectations! The spirit of fraternity, affection and fellowship coupled with a real move of the Holy Spirit made it a weekend we all will remember for a long time to come.

Here are pictures from the weekend, and below the pictures, a description of what went on (including one of the talks that you can download).

Prayers for Detachment; time for reconciliation

After settling in on Friday, Ann and I led a prayer to help the women detach from their cares and focus solely on God. Music, prayers, candles and sweet scents lifted hearts to Heaven. Each woman wrote down their cares on a piece of paper – all the papers were put in a bag that was attached to mylar balloons that would lift the bag up to the ceiling!

After the prayer, everyone went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with 3 wonderful priests, setting the tone for a Spirit-filled weekend.

Prayer

Prayer was a central part of the retreat – the Sung Rosary was done throughout the day using a Power Point presentation with images, scripture and the music of the Sung Rosary. Here’s a sample:

Loving God . . .

On Saturday morning, the presentations began. The theme of the retreat was the Two Great Commandments, based on Mark 12:28-34 – loving God, and loving neighbor.  A strong emphasis was placed upon priorities – how important it is to love God first and allowing that growing relationship to spill over into loving your neighbor. I shared teaching  on why loving God first was so important in my talk on Martha and Mary (read the text of the talk here), and Ann proceeded to share from her life about her struggles to balance between being a Martha and a Mary, and how she is becoming a “contemplative in action.”

I then spoke about how service happens through an outpouring of grace resulting from loving God, and how that grace can equip us for difficult service (in my case, helping to care for my dying mother).

The morning session concluded with an Emmaus walk, where the women, after hearing the scripture about the disciples’ encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, were instructed to take their own individual walk around the grounds as the disciples did, conversing and listening to Jesus.

Time of  Fellowship

Mealtimes at the dining hall were a highpoint as the food was so well prepared, and everyone was so warm and friendly. There was an extraordinary move of the Spirit through all the women which created a wonderful atmosphere of fellowship. It was a taste of Heaven.

Loving Neighbor . . .

The afternoon session focused on loving our neighbor by discovering and developing our natural talents and gifts, and then becoming aware of and praying for the spiritual gifts (based on scripture from 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4) . Ann and I gave a talk tracing our time lines to see what talents and gifts kept appearing throughout our lifetimes as a way of identifying what we do well (I also traced my husband’s interesting time line which led to his vocation as a deacon). I also spoke on what I termed “hidden gifts”  – those things such as being hospitable, being a good listener, or being a good caregiver – talents our society does not value but God does.  Each woman took a written survey to dig deeper into their own gifts and talents, and small group discussion followed sharing what they found out.

The scripture on the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 set the stage for a talk on the responsibilities we have to use our gifts to serve others. Blessed Mother Teresa was held up as the best modern example of a woman who used her immense gifts to help the poorest of the poor and that her ‘secret’ to her success what that it was all for Jesus. She had a unique talent for seeing Christ in every person she saw. I shared my song about Mother Teresa, “Teach Me to Love” (click here to listen).

Afterwards, the women gathered in small groups where they read sayings from Mother Teresa about service and applied them to their lives. The work they did produced some wonderful ideas – I took pictures of all the work they did so you can see for yourself and perhaps apply them to your life:

A beautiful meditation of the Stations of the Cross (a Power Point presentation with narration) was presented in the evening.

Blessing of the Hands

Sunday morning we were treated to a beautiful mass by Father Benedict of the Franciscans of the Primitive Order out of Lawrence, MA. Afterwards, we gathered back in the gym for our sending forth ceremony known as the Blessing of the Hands. Father blessed the water and the bowl was passed around from woman to woman; each woman dipped a finger in the water and did a sign of the cross in the hand of the woman next to her as a litany was read.  Eventually the litany was opened up and women shared their own blessings. It was a very moving ceremony with many tears shed. The ceremony strongly demonstrated the spirit of love and fellowship that bound together these new friends.

More information on Vita Nova

Ann and I were delighted and honored to have been a part of this event. The Vita Nova team (all volunteer), led by Rose Marie Cussom and Shannon Best were extraordinary in their efforts; their support made it possible for Ann and I to focus solely on the content and presentation of the material. I can’t rave about the team enough! Vita Nova is holding other events – be sure and check out their website for more information.

Prayer leads to insight, even on the little things

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Readings for February 25, 2011
Sirach 6:5-17; Psalm 119:12,16,18,27,34-35, Mark 10:1-12

Couples who have been married for a long time will relate to this. My husband and I were quarreling over an issue that has dogged us throughout our entire relationship. We’ve known each other since we were 16 and have been married 32 years. That’s a long time to be habitually quarreling over one issue!

Because of the long history, we were  tired of talking about it. We had both long ago hit brick walls trying to understand each other. What used to be hot and noisy fights has now turned into silence and getting the cold shoulder. And then stewing and steaming . . . It wasn’t a quarrel that would cause a split, but it did cause misery.

One tactic that my husband and I have adopted when we need to have one of those “difficult discussions” is to use email. Email has a way of creating some emotional distance thus creating a more objective view; it also allows each of us to express ourselves fully and thoughtfully without interruption. We used this tactic today.

At first it didn’t go well. I started out feeling very conflicted and despaired of an honest discussion – that grew into open anger. Praying was extremely difficult with that wall of anger separating me from my husband, and ultimately from God.

At noontime, my iTouch alerted me that it was time to pray the Angelus. I sighed and prayed it, admitting to God that my heart was not in it, and asking for direction, insight and guidance. Within the hour, He answered my prayer.

Through our discussion, my husband revealed the true nature of the problem. He had actually told me many times before what the nature of the problem was, but I never could see it. I started a prayer journal a few weeks ago (on my iTouch using the Pauline Media app called Healing Prayers) and added that intention on my list, asking for understanding and insight. Today, because of those prayers and by praying the Angelus, I received the insight I was looking for.

After a frank discussion with my husband, I was able to offer a solution that made him very happy. The language softened right up and we started discussing happier things, such as going to Boston tomorrow night to see the Beatles tribute band, Rain (a last minute decision :-) ).

Not that I needed direct proof, but I received it anyway that prayer leads to insight, even on the smallest issues, and even on those stubborn ones that occur again and again. Truly, nothing is impossible withe God!

So what does this have to do with today’s readings? At first I didn’t think there was a link, but my deacon friend pointed it out while we chatted online by quoting today’s responsorial psalm – Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

How true! It also affirmed something. I recently took up the habit of listening to the Invitatory Psalm of the Divine Office on DivineOffice.org, the daily readings from the iMissal app, and the podcast of the day from the Pray As You Go podcast. I’m half asleep when I listen to these things and wondered if they were having any impact at all. This morning I was convinced it was a useless exercise. The things that happened today tell me otherwise. It’s possible that subconsciously I did absorb the readings. After all, I did ask the Lord to guide me in the way of His commands.

It really goes to show in the end that faithfulness to the smallest things is the key to the spiritual life. Right now as I write this, I have a growing and profound sense of gratitude.

Thank you, Lord.

Contemporary Example of True Shepherds

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Reflections on the readings for February, 22, 2011
1 Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 23:1-6; Matthew 16:13-19

Yesterday I saw the most wonderful article in the Boston Globe about the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. He was sent to Ireland to represent the  Church and offer sincere apologies with regards to the sex abuse scandal there. The Church in Ireland has been deeply wounded by this scandal, even as we have felt it here in America and especially in the Boston area where the story broke and was extensively covered by the Boston Globe.

Therefore it was especially welcome to see coverage of this story in said Boston Globe, and on the front cover too, above the fold. It is the perfect reflection of what a true shepherd in Church ought to be as pointed out in today’s first reading from 1Peter:

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The article by Lisa Wangness begins as such:

DUBLIN — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin lay prostrate before a bare altar as the packed cathedral watched in silence.

They listened as lectors read long sections of government reports detailing horrific abuse of children in Dublin parishes and church-run industrial schools.

Then O’Malley and Martin washed the feet of eight abuse victims. Several wept as Martin poured water from a large pitcher and O’Malley knelt and dried them with a white terry cloth towel.

Anyone familiar with the story of the Washing of the Feet, read on Holy Thursday liturgy, knows that Jesus was teaching his disciples true service and humility. He was putting the disciples in positions of authority and wanted to make sure they understood that being in authority meant to serve. Washing someone’s dirty feet (and in ancient times, they were especially dirty!), normally a slave’s job, was the perfect example of true service and humility.

Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Martin understood that. They knew that if the Church in Ireland, and around the world, was to begin to heal, that they would need to show the ultimate sign of humility towards the sex abuse victims. Thanks be to God that they were open to the Holy Spirit enough to show this sign.

This is what St. Peter meant in his writing to the Church; he knew firsthand because the Lord had shown him, even though he initially resisted.

May more shepherds be like these two men – not just clergy, but all shepherds, for we all tend our little flocks.

Here is a link to the entire story.