Archive for the ‘love of neighbor’ Category

Have you ever been “wrecked?”

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I have launched a new blog known as Be As One: A Single Flow … and wanted to share with you a review of an important new book. Come on over and read the review and see what else Be As One has to offer you.

 

Pain, suffering and sacrifice are dirty words in today’s world, meant to be avoided at all costs. In the process, the meaning and value have been lost.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, the impressive debut book by blogger Jeff Goins not only restores the meaning to suffering and sacrifice, but exhorts the reader to value, embrace and learn from them.

What does it mean to be “wrecked?”

Click here to find out.

 

Click to Tweet & Share: Jeff Goins’ impressive debut book, Wrecked, “slams” into life as we know it http://wp.me/p2D9hg-1k

 

Would you like to learn along with Susan how to live your life in single flow?
Send an email to susanwbailey@gmail.com
to subscribe, and never miss a post!
Follow Susan on Facebook and Twitter
Listen to Susan’s music Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

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

One life and how it changed so many

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Yesterday I began my vacation. I enjoyed an exquisite kayaking trip up the Sudbury River in Concord, MA to the Great Meadows National Wildlife Reserve. The day ended with a wonderful family dinner to welcome home my brother-in-law as he visits from California.

I remember sitting in my kayak, looking at the scenery and thinking,  “It doesn’t get more beautiful than this.”

Yet after today, that beauty paled in comparison.

My favorite day of vacation won’t be the glorious kayak trip or the family reunion dinner.

It will be a funeral.

Today I witnessed something so beautiful that I couldn’t stop weeping. I was not sad; I was overwhelmed.

The essence of Henry

A very special man had died. He was a member of our parish family and our town for several decades. His wake was crowded and the funeral mass nearly full. Our pastor summed up the story of Henry this way:

“Henry was a gracious receiver.”

What in the world does that mean? Monsignor Mike used the gospel reading as the key.

The story of Henry

Monsignor had chosen John 13: 1-17 where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. It was a different choice for a funeral mass. But Henry was a most unique man.

Henry had fallen prey to a mental illness when he was 19 and spent many years institutionalized. Years later he was placed in a new experimental program where he would live in the community, and he moved to a small apartment in downtown Westboro, MA where he was to live out his days. He joined our parish, St. Luke the Evangelist, and began to use his special gift.

At first people were put off by Henry’s odd mannerisms and ways. But as eulogist Charley O’Neil pointed out, it didn’t take long for those same people to count this dear man as their friend.

A simple life full of love

Henry loved people. He exuded joy and made it a point to meet and greet as many people as he could. He never forgot a name nor a face. He was a fixture at daily mass, loving our Eucharistic Lord most passionately. He prayed his rosary regularly and became known as a powerful prayer warrior.

Henry was also a man who recognized his needs and weaknesses and never hesitated to call on parishioners for help. Charley remarked that once Henry asked you for help, you were a member for life of his little community!

His gift of “gracious receiving” enabled a large part of our parish family to be more like Jesus.

Henry taught us how to receive

Monsignor Mike pointed out Peter in the gospel, how he first refused the Lord’s offer to wash his feet. When Jesus told Peter that he could not be a disciple unless he received this gift, Peter understood and allowed the Lord to wash his feet. In turn, Peter would care for many of the flock throughout his life with greater love than he could have imagined.

Monsignor explained that Henry did that for people. He asked for help and received it graciously. As a result, Henry was Jesus to many and allowed others to be Jesus to him. He helped people live the verse from the parable of the Last Judgment: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, naked and you clothed me, sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36, paraphrased)

Charley O’Neil as a key member of  Henry’s beautiful community of friends, driving Henry places and each year, hosting a big birthday party for him at his home. I imagine that each year, the guest list got longer.

Henry taught us how to love

And Charley reminded us that Henry indeed represented the least of us, a man disabled who had to depend on others for his needs. Henry was a man who would normally be shunned and forgotten, but he refused to play that role. His great joy and fearless love, fueled by his devotion to the Eucharistic Lord, enabled him to achieve the kind of legacy we could only dream of. (read Henry’s obituary here; read a letter to the town of Westboro about Henry here)

Surely Henry is “free of his demons” as Charley said, and “rests in the arms of the Lord.”

What Henry taught me

And why could I not stop weeping? Because, here was a man with a heart so big and so full that, despite his “demons” was able to change so many lives for the better.

Only this week the Lord has been showing me the painful truth of my small heart which I liken to the Grinch who stole Christmas. So small and stingy. So afraid.

Today I was exposed to a heart and a life that was lived fearlessly, in great joy. Henry’s light was so bright and although I barely knew the man, his funeral and life story would change me forever.

Henry understood the delicate balance of receiving and giving. “So simple,” said our pastor, and yet so profound.

True beauty

Today I saw a beauty and a truth that reminds me yet again that there is nothing in this world that can even begin to compare to the love of our God.

I may have kayaked down one of the most scenic rivers in the world yesterday. I may have enjoyed a wonderful dinner with family, full of laughter, love and stories.

But all of that paled in comparison to the truth of God’s love as shown through the life of “the least of these.”

Henry, you’re in heaven now and I bet your giving has just begun. You gave me a most precious gift today. And I will continue to ask you to pray for me that God will grow my heart to be as big and generous as yours. Rest in peace.

 

 

Overcoming emotion before it takes over – a followup

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

You may recall in a previous post the story I shared about how anger and aggravation overcame me beginning with the task of vacuuming the pool. I shared that story with my spiritual mother who advised me to say the Jesus Prayer before I begin, and during the task. It worked like a charm! I vacuumed the pool yesterday and the prayer lifted me outside of myself so that I could remain peaceful throughout the task. It had all the elements of being just as aggravating as the last time, but this time I was armed with prayer. Yet another lesson in the idea of detaching from emotion through prayer.

You would think I would then immediately apply prayer to any other time when emotion would overtake me but I still have a long way to go with this lesson. Letting go of aggravation and anger was easy in comparison to letting go of grief and self-pity.

Holidays lately have been a little difficult. I still haven’t grown totally into the empty nester role and therefore miss the kids terribly. I grieved the loss of our family together over the 4th of July holiday. Add to that a dose of self-pity because our efforts to go kayaking were thwarted yet again, this time by my husband’s back pain. I felt very badly for him, but felt sorry for myself too.

It took all weekend to turn to prayer but I finally did as I waited for a fireworks display. I had asked my husband if I could go and he said that was fine. I went and found myself feeling especially lonely and nostalgic for past days when we would go as a family. Seeing other families around me just added to the pain. I felt totally alone, until I realized I wasn’t ever alone – God was with me if I would just call on Him.

I began with the Jesus Prayer and quickly turned to the rosary. At first I looked up at the sky, thinking of heaven. Then I turned my gaze on all the people around me, asking God to bless them, and I began to see Christ in all of them. The feelings of loneliness, grief and self-pity slowly began to dissipate as I became aware of the presence of my very best Friend, the one who will never leave me, deep in my heart, and all around me too in those people.

The fireworks display seemed extra lively and bright now that I felt surrounded by friends. Maybe next time I won’t wait so long!

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.

*******************************************************

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 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

In the last post on this subject (Part 6), I spoke about mirroring the sacraments in our daily living, beginning with baptism, and how it related to cleaning and purifying (as described in Chapter 2 of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman). Through an understanding of the sacraments, we can apply their principles to our living, keeping us closer to God. This develops our inner beauty, slowly but surely. I had mentioned how difficult a time I had linking cleaning the house to the sacrament of baptism (with the principles of cleansing, purifying and dying to self to rise with Christ), and I realized I needed to stop thinking about my dislike for the job and rather, think about the benefits a clean and orderly house has on my family and their daily living.

The value of hospitality

Cleaning and purifying paves the way for hospitality, the art of welcoming someone into your home and your life, and offering them service through your love. After all, a dirty and disorderly house is hardly welcoming! Hospitality in ancient times for people in the Middle East was not only a nicety, it was a necessity. There were no stores or restaurants along the long, hot paths, no places to drink or to eat, and very few homes along the way. People in that time knew that offering hospitality to a traveler was necessary for that traveler’s life. Hospitality was live-giving.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

While hospitality today may not be necessary for physical sustenance, it offers vital emotional sustenance. As Kineke points out, hospitality “provides an essential forum of love and comfort to all” in every phase of life  (page 18, The Authentic Catholic Woman). In most cases, we provide food, shelter and comfort, but in some cases it can be literally a matter of life and death. This was the case with St. Gianna Beretta Molla who “welcomed” a child into her womb and bore the child despite the fact that it cost her her life. Her daughter attended St. Gianna’s beatification, thanking her mother for the gift of life, once by allowing conception, and then again by allowing her to be born.

Mary as the example

Mary displayed hospitality by allowing the same – she welcomed God incarnate into her womb where she bore Jesus Christ and then took care of Him, offering vital physical and emotional sustenance. In taking in Jesus, she was able to gaze upon the face of God daily, hold Him in her arms, caress and kiss him, feed and bathe Him. Remembering how the face of Moses glowed after he would speak with God (see Exodus 33), imagine how Mary’s whole life must have glowed!

L to R, my mother-in-law, Noni, my sister-in-law, and her great grandmother

All about the love

Hospitality is a gift of love. I recall my husband’s grandmother, “Noni”, as the model of hospitality in my life. It took me years to understand why her gift was so special because I needed to look outside of myself to see it. Noni’s welcoming of people and providing food and comfort were not merely duties or chores, they were acts of love, acts as natural as breathing. I recall the time my brother-in-law got married – people were coming and going all weekend long and yet there was always the same welcome, the same offer of food and conversation. Suddenly my eyes were opened and I saw a gift I longed to have. Hospitality does not come naturally to me but I work at it now, always keeping my Noni in mind as my example. She lived in a sacramental manner.

Providing a safe haven

Hospitality not only offers care and comfort, but a safe haven. This part at least I did understand and I made it a priority from the first day my children came into the world that our home would be just that. In this safe haven they were to be respected as people with their own ideas, even from the youngest age. They would be listened to. God has blessed this effort tremendously in that we have excellent relationships with our two 20-something children who happily share their lives with us and know to come home when they need a safe haven.

It’s all about being engaged

As a natural loner, I prefer not to engage with people. Jesus, however, is calling me to engage all the time and to be welcoming at a moment’s notice. It can be as simple as offering a smile and a greeting. Perhaps it’s taking care of others on the job with a pleasant and willing attitude, even if people seem unreasonably demanding. Maybe it’s putting aside the desire to go out after work to a desired activity so I can be home to offer dinner and companionship to my husband.

Hospitality is not about the chores and duties, it’s all about the love. When hospitality is lived in the spirit of baptism, it becomes sacramental, and special.

*******************************************************

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

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

In the last post I talked about holiness and how it creates an inner light. Mary was holy and she had that inner light. She must have been so beautiful to behold. That inner light, that holiness, made it possible for her to accept God’s will without question. Yet there must have been some preparation in her life for that moment. A farmer doesn’t just drop seed on the ground – it wouldn’t grow. The ground has to be prepared, tilled, aerated, watered . . . so that the seed can germinate and grow. How did Mary prepare? How can we prepare?

Tradition has it that Mary was raised in the temple. Certainly in the temple she was trained in prayer and scripture. She likely had a thorough knowledge of the prophesies regarding the Messiah and was obviously grounded in prayer. Notice that the angel Gabriel did not need to explain much to her for her to understand the implications:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary only asked one question – how would it happen? She understood the rest. The lifelong cultivation of her spiritual life through consistent prayer and study of scripture had prepared her to hear the words of Gabriel and accept them. Her eyes didn’t need to be opened by any explanation – they were already open.

Keith Fournier in his book, The Prayer of Mary, (chapter 2, The Way of Beauty, pages 9-14) maintains that Mary was beautiful because she grounded herself in this lifestyle. The angel declared that she was “full of grace” and Fournier says that makes Mary “beautiful.” She radiated a deeper, spiritual beauty flowing from her relationship with God (remember my example of our new real estate in the last post?). This inner glow was her beauty.

Fournier gives the example of Blessed Mother Teresa, a woman who was not physically beautiful by any means but who radiated joy and love in such a way that she became known internationally for her spiritual beauty. Grace does not change our physical appearance as much as it changes us from the inside out.

Fournier then goes on to explain specific ways that Mary was beautiful:

  • Her ears, because they were open and attentive, allowing her to hear a message so profound that it would change the world.
  • Her heart, because she emptied herself and allowed it to fill up with God’s grace. She also allowed it to be broken so that God’s ultimate will of saving of us all could come to pass (consider Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta statue)
  • Her feet, because she brought the glad tidings of her pregnancy to her cousin Elizabeth immediately after she heard (see Isaiah 52:7).
  • Her arms and hands, because they caressed the Christ. Imagine for a moment holding the dear baby in your arms, knowing that you are holding the Son of God . . .
  • Her face, because she saw God face to face.  Remember how Moses, after his encounter with God, had to wear a veil because the glow was so intense. 2 Corinthians 4:6 states the the Glory of God was revealed in the face of Christ, a face that Mary saw daily for 33 years! Imagine how her face must have reflected that glory.

If you see paintings and icons of Mary from different cultures, you will see that she is depicted in many races and many forms. Why is this? Because Mary’s beauty transcends every cultural definition – her beauty is reflecting God who transcends all.

How do you suppose Mary’s beauty played out in daily life? In my next post, I will consider portions of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman, where she gives numerous examples. Here’s a tease – it involves leading a sacramental life . . .

*******************************************************

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

 

 

“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.

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.

Update on baby Joseph – keep the prayers coming!

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Thank the Lord and our Lady for interceding for baby Joseph – there has been a temporary stay on pulling the plug:

Baby Joseph saved from life support removal –
transfer to Michigan hospital likely

Today’s gospel reading from Mk 9:14-29 is the perfect reading to reflect upon for this miracle – the father of the boy possessed by the demon cries out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Later, Jesus tells the disciples that this type of demon can only be driven out by prayer.

It appears this demon responds to prayer as well. Let us keep up the fight, and I will keep you informed.