Sunday, May 13, 2018

Our Lady as Mother


May is traditionally dedicated to Our Lady. A beautiful devotion to her is the Litany of Loretto. She has so many wonderful titles that we can honor her by. One of my favorites is "cause of our joy." She gives us so many reasons for joy when we pray to her. Her greatest desire is to lead us to her Son, who is the source of all joy. It is fitting that Mothers' Day and the anniversary of Fatima fell on the same day this year. At Fatima, Our Lady truly reminded us that she is our Mother and desires that we be in Heaven with her. A devotion to Mary is so necessary for the spiritual life and can only bring about an increase in virtue. 

A great quote by St. Bernard: "In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal."

Sunday, May 6, 2018

As Simple as Syrup


One of my favorite childhood memories is spending time at my uncle's house in Massachusetts. Growing up with my cousins made the experience of being a kid all the more fun. The games, the stories, the holidays were things shared and something I look back on with the fondest thoughts. 

My uncle used to tap his own trees on his property and make maple syrup. To this day, I use maple syrup every day on my oatmeal and my thoughts go to those memories. It's funny how something as simple as syrup can connect you to the past and remind you of the best people in your life. Our memories make us part of who we are, and what we've experienced contributes to the person we will be.

It's easy to see how I defy anyone who calls "Aunt Jemima's Original Syrup" real maple syrup or how it can ever be considered in the maple syrup family. There's nothing compared to true maple syrup that comes from tapping trees.

I love how the simplest memories are enough to brighten each morning!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Birds of the Air


One of my favorite Scripture quotes is Matthew 6:26: "Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?" This passage gives such comfort that we are so valued and loved by God and He will always take care of everything.

I also like that this chapter of Scripture reminds us to focus on one day at at time and not to worry about the future. It's so easy to always be thinking about tomorrow, whether it is simple planning or more serious planning and to get caught up in wondering what our future holds. If we find our thoughts constantly dwelling on a part of our lives that hasn't come yet, we will never really live each day.

God is in the present moment. I love how Mother Angelica talked so much about this concept. The present moment is all we have, the moment before is gone and the moment ahead has not yet come. We should focus on truly living by enjoying life in the little moments and not taking them for granted. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

On the Move


So part of my being absent from this blog (and backdating five posts in a row) is embracing the life change of moving. I think both the challenge and excitement of moving takes hold of your life like ivy. From the idea stage of "it would be nice to live somewhere else" to getting to that somewhere else, the amount of things involved grows and grows until the ivy of moving just takes over. It's a juggling act. It's an adventure. It's a process.

Most people seem to say once they've accomplished a move that they never want to move again. New house, new people, new place, maybe even a new job, all make your life a series of changes. It is definitely fun and makes life both interesting and surprising, but it makes you wonder how some people can handle moving so frequently like military families.

The boxes and boxes and packing tape and bubble wrap, the change of addresses, the settling in, using a gps to get anywhere, new routines, can all seem a bit overwhelming. The move definitely has to be worth it and a refreshing difference from the previous place. 

For me it comes down to adding to one's experience. I don't think I would enjoy growing up and living in the exact same place from beginning to end, although I'm sure it has it's perks. Moving allows you to experience life in a different way and face new challenges. To move is to take the leap of discovering if a new place brings opportunities you never would have had otherwise. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Eucharistic Adoration


I think truly one of the greatest devotions of the Catholic Faith is Eucharistic Adoration. Of course Holy Mass is the liturgy that brings us the Holy Eucharist, but there is something truly special about the quiet mental prayer that can be spent before the Blessed Sacrament outside the liturgy. For although we go with the intent of comforting Our Lord, He in turn is the one who comforts us. 

He is always waiting day and night for a visit from us. He gives Himself entirely and only asks for our love. The moments in life that are the most challenging offer us a chance to run to Him and tell Him all our worries and trials. Sometimes we need not even say anything, just gazing at Him present in the tabernacle is enough for Him. We are then refreshed and can continue on with the struggle, knowing He is there every step of the way. 

There are so many ways to pray before Him, the rosary, reading a spiritual book, meditating on Scripture passages, but the very best is using our own words and talking simply as to a friend. Even if we feel that we aren't getting the answers to our prayers, He hears us and is answering them all the same, but perhaps not in the way we expect. 

A visit to the Blessed Sacrament should be a part of our daily life, no matter how busy we are. Our Lord deserves to see us in person and we should desire to see Him too. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Divine Mercy


If you've never been to the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, MA it is well worth seeing. I was blessed with the opportunity of visiting the national shrine more than once when my uncle's family lived in the area. It is a very peaceful place, one conducive to prayer and rest with perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The church itself is designed with detailed woodwork and stained glass windows, the grounds are beautiful MA countryside where you can find life-size stations of the cross, and there are even candle grottos and a gift shop. It is a wonderful place of pilgrimage, particularly for the feast of Divine Mercy today.

What I like about the Divine Mercy devotion is the emphasis on trust in God. We can all find reasons for worrying about something in our lives that are not going quite the way we would like, but today's feast reminds us that God is in control and we can rely completely on His providence. 

St. Faustina said: “Great love can change small things into great ones, and it is only love which lends value to our actions. And the purer our love becomes, the less there will be within us for the flames of suffering to feed upon, and the suffering will cease to be a suffering for us; it will become a delight! By the grace of God, I have received such a disposition of heart that I am never so happy as when I suffer for Jesus, whom I love with every beat of my heart.” 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Triumph


Easter and Christmas are both such special times of year. I think the biggest difference between the two is Christmas has more of a note of sweetness and joy, whereas Easter has the feeling of triumph. There is something particularly triumphant about celebrating the Resurrection. Christ has the victory over sin and death and we are given the hope of everlasting life.

I love this quote by St. John Chrysostom: "O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages."

While the spiritual side is the most important of the feast, I do love Easter traditions such as dyeing eggs, egg hunts, and of course the chocolate bunnies. The same as any holiday, Easter is that special time to be with family and friends. Blessed Easter!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Easy Corn Casserole


Are you looking for a simple dish that tastes gourmet? This is a great one for the holidays that everyone will think you gave blood, sweat, and tears in making, but really you only had a couple minutes to get something together! Only 5 ingredients!

~ 1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
~ 1 frozen package of corn
~ 1 can of creamed corn
~ 2/3 cup of vegetable oil
~ 2 T brown sugar

Mix ingredients together. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes in a 9x11 pan. Top should brown slightly and knife come out clean when finished. Enjoy! And watch your friends and family compliment you for all your "hard" work. :-)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Saint for All Needs


There is no saint quite like St. Joseph to pray to for any special intention. St. Teresa of Avila said: "I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him."

I just wanted to share this devotion of a 30 Day Prayer to St. Joseph. I have never known it to fail!

"Ever blessed and glorious St. Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow! Thou art the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow. Look kindly on my request. My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness. To thee, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection. Listen, then, I beg thee, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask. I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow. I ask it by the weariness and suffering thou didst endure when thou didst find no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the Holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born. Then, being everywhere refused, thou hadst to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world's Redeemer in a cave. I ask it by the loveliness and power of that sacred Name, Jesus, which thou didst confer on the adorable Infant. I ask it by the painful torture thou didst feel at the prophecy of holy Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us. I ask it through thy sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to thee that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies. From their evil plan, thou hadst to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt. I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey. I ask it by all thy care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during thy second journey, when thou wert ordered to return to thine own country. I ask it by thy peaceful life in Nazareth where thou didst meet with so many joys and sorrows. I ask it by thy great distress when the adorable Child was lost to thee and His Mother for three days. I ask it by thy joy at finding Him in the temple, and by the comfort thou didst find at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus. I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to thee. I ask it by the perfect love and conformity thou didst show in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary. I ask it by the joy which filled thy soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led thee into it with special honors. I ask it through Mary's glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness thou hast with her in the presence of God. O good father! I beg thee, by all thy sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask. (mention your petitions) Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. A blameless life, St. Joseph, may we lead, by thy kind patronage from danger freed. Amen."

Sunday, March 11, 2018

True Joy


The Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday, reminds us of the fruit of the Holy Ghost--joy. Joy is a pure gift from God. We can practice charity or experience peace, but the idea of joy and happiness is something God fills us with because it comes from Himself. Joy and goodness go together. As God is all-good, He is the ultimate object of our desires, and we are truly happy when seeking Him.

There is a difference between "feeling happy" and true joy that is supernatural, and that supernatural joy comes from fulfilling God's will in our lives. When we are completely open to God acting in our lives, He takes care of everything for us. For He desires us to be happy more than we want to be happy. 

Joy is also lasting. It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but I think when you are sad it is still possible to experience joy. Because even when we are going through tough times, we can still hold onto the hope and happiness of union with God, which more often than not is achieved through suffering well. 

I've always liked this quote: "Serve the Lord with laughter" by St. Padre Pio. It is a much fuller life to take each experience great or small with a smile.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Paradise


Everyone has a favorite vacation spot, either a place to return to year after year to make memories or a place that of itself creates a sense of peace and relaxation. Now nothing is permanent here on earth, but I do think there are places that God has made that give us a foretaste of paradise.

That paradise for me is without a doubt the ocean. There is something so majestic about the waves and the immensity of it all. There's a whole world beneath those waters that I'll probably never see in person because I doubt I'll ever scuba dive. There's nothing to compare the sound of the rolling waves to or the soft sands or the ocean breeze or the setting sun. If it was possible to find a heaven on earth, the beach would be it for me.

I love the idea that there really can be a "happy place" you can go to. God has created so much beauty around us that taking little trips reminds us that we can find that at home too. But there's nothing like having a favorite vacation spot that makes you realize there's so much to enjoy in life.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Beatitudo


Beatitudo, or perfect happiness, is a concept I learned in a philosophy class once. For life has many ups and downs, hellos and goodbyes, and good and bad days, but there is something that lies beneath all that where we can find peace and joy. 

The Catholic Encyclopedia discusses: "Beatitudo, perfect happiness, complete well-being, is to be attained not in this life, but in the next. Primarily, it consists in the activity of man's highest cognitive faculty, the intellect, in the contemplation of God — the infinitely Beautiful. But this immediately results in the supreme delight of the will in the conscious possession of the Summum Bonum, God, the infinitely good."

While beatitudo is something fully possessed in Heaven, we have a foretaste of it on earth, and it is this very concept that transcends the sufferings of life. The possession of God carries us through and allows us to be truly happy no matter what storms shake us. 

I think too that this possession of God extends to other people. For we see God in those around us--those closest to us, and so our happiness comes not only from God but the people He puts in our life. We in turn can be a source of joy to those same people.

So in what does perfect happiness consist? And how can we find it on earth amidst suffering? Blessed Margaret d’Youville says: "All the wealth in the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united." The key is union--our souls in union with God and our hearts in union with friends. Because one can only truly be happy by giving oneself to another, or rather that true joy shines the brightest in sacrifice and love.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Patience of 40 Days


Lent teaches us a lot about patience. I think this is one of the hardest virtues to practice, perhaps because it is required of us so frequently. There's innumerable moments throughout the day that we must endure some suffering or wait for things. The Lenten season asks us to commit to a practice, sacrifice, additional prayer, or virtue for 40 days (give or take) that help us learn patience.

I was sent a document recently on Patience by Fr. Richard Clarke that consists of a 30 day meditation on the virtue. One quote Father writes: "The virtue of patience consists in the willing endurance for God's sake of all that is painful to nature, of whatever kind it may be." I like the words "whatever kind" to remind us that really anything that presents itself as disagreeable to us is an opportunity to be patient and offer something to God.

Just as with waiting 40 days through Lent and making sacrifices along the way, brings us so much joy and glory with the celebration of Easter, the rewards of patience are peace and triumph. For I think it is in waiting for things that make the attainment of them so wonderful. There's an inner joy that accompanies those moments when you choose to be patient amidst suffering by the grace of God.

I love this quote by Mother Angelica, "Patience is adjusting your time to God's time."  Let's take Our Lady of Sorrows as our model of patience this Lent!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Taking a Drive


Do you ever just like going for a drive? Even if you don't have anywhere in particular to go, sometimes it's nice to drive along the highway and take in all the surroundings. I guess all-day drives can be a drag, but there's something satisfying about reaching your destination after a long journey.

I like the fun and adventure of trips--the idea that you can hop in a car or a plane and be somewhere else in a matter of hours. Going for a drive and playing music in the car, rolling the windows down and feeling the fresh air, laughing with your friends on the way to a movie. There's something about sharing a drive that lets you have the best conversations, those feel good moments, and the experience of getting somewhere together.

A nice drive gives you time to think, time to imagine, time to take a breather and slow down. I like the experience of new places, of the old fashioned idea of printing out directions, of capturing the moments that got you there. People laugh at the number of pictures I like to take, but you just want to savor those moments that quickly turn into memories. 

So when life hits you fast, remember you can just take it slow, one moment at a time!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Valuing Our Heritage


Our nationality is part of who we are. It might not play a central part in our everyday life as far as customs may go, but there is something to be said for our heritage. Where we come from sometimes helps us know where we are going. Being American is a distinct nationality, but most Americans have different heritages. I enjoy American holidays and traditions, but it is also nice to have some elements of our other cultures as well.

For myself, I am Polish, Irish, and German. To be honest, I don't play up the nationalities all that much, but I think it's neat to know what you are. I would love to travel to those countries and experience what the culture would be like. The food, architecture, and people would all be so interesting. 

One tradition that I have kept is a Polish one. Every Christmas we get special wafers decorated with religious scenes. Each member of the family breaks off a piece of their individual wafer and wishes the other a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It is a warm memory I have of all the Christmas Eve's growing up. (And I do have to say that Polish Chrusciki sugar pastries are absolutely delicious).

Heritage to me is a little piece of our past that makes the unique story of our life a little more fascinating!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Give to God


This week I know someone making her Solemn Profession of Vows. This ceremony, by which a religious sister commits herself until death to her rule of life, her promises of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, and her Community, is considered by the Church to be the equivalent of a wedding day. The Sister is a bride of Christ and as such offers the gift of her life to God. Her days will be spent in prayer, sacrifice, and love for the salvation of souls. 

Our Faith is so rich, it's moments like these ceremonies that make you realize we are living for eternity. Our life on earth is short and we need to make the most of each moment to love God. Not all of us are called to give ourselves in the same way a religious does, but we should all have that generosity of heart that we give ourselves to God in our daily struggles in whatever state of life we find ourselves in.

St. Agnes says: "Christ has made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him Whom the angels serve." How fitting this quote will be to the Sister making her vows to Christ. Her offering will bring much grace to the Church, as each of us can in living lives of virtue.

May God bless Sister and all those who offer their lives to God and pray for us daily.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Twain's Triumph



Mark Twain's words about this work say it all: "I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none." I agree with his statement, "it is the best." I've read this book twice and never get tired of it. Perhaps I'm biased because Joan of Arc is one of my favorite saints, but Twain really brings her story to life. He portrayed the narration as Louis de Conte so remarkably that many at the time didn't know Twain was the author.

This post will be pages and pages if I really told you all the great things about this book, but you will have to read it for yourself. In short, the work is divided into three parts. The first "In Domremy" and the life with her family. The second "In Court and Camp" and her epic battles. The third "Trial and Martyrdom" which Twain puts as "among all the multitude of biographies that freight the shelves of the world's libraries, this is the only one whose validity is confirmed to us by oath."

The third section is perhaps the most moving. There is nothing compared to the dialogue of Joan of Arc at the end of her life, including perhaps the most famous line, "if I be not in a state of grace, I pray God place me in it; if I be in it, I pray God keep me so." Also, her answer to the question of why her standard had been at the king's coronation: "it had borne the burden, it had earned the honor."

I think what moves me most about Joan's life is her willingness to serve God in whatever way He wished and the remarkable courage and fidelity to the mission He gave her. It is a wonder to me that discovering the rich spiritual depth of a soul like Joan of Arc that Twain never became a Catholic. Still, he does great justice to the life of the Maid and shows what a hero she really was. (Note: the film of Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman is not bad and follows along fairly accurately with her story as well).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ride of Life


So, I'm not one for the really big roller coasters. The most advanced I've been on is a ride not more than 35mph......and I didn't realize it went backwards until it was too late. But do you ever feel like life is just like the big coasters? They go fast, turn you around, make you feel like you're flying, and if you let go a little give you the time of your life. 

Life is like that to me. It has it's ups and downs, it's dash of the unexpected and unpredictable, but at the same time the happiest moments, the thrill of adventure, and sharing all that experience with others. So much so that you don't want the ride to end and have to re-ride it over and over to relive those great moments.

But like my experience on the backwards coaster--you can't get off the ride until it's over. Time never stops. Moments pass so quickly and we want to hang onto them. Are we letting life pass us by and not enjoying the ride? I love this quote: "While you are busy making a living, don't forget to make a life."

The best part of coasters to me, be they small or large, is not riding them at all, but the excitement built up beforehand. I love the anticipation of "am I actually going to get on this?" And then deciding to do it. Life is like that--you don't know what the future will bring, but you take the leap and jump in, excitement and all. Before you realize it, you're having the ultimate adventure.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It Makes a Difference


I recently discovered this little story and now it's one of my favorites: "One evening a squall on an ocean left the beach scattered with starfish. A child noticed this walking along and tried to return the starfish into the waves. A passerby remarked to the child of the impossibility of making a difference since there were countless starfish. The child looked thoughtfully at the starfish in his hand before returning it to the ocean and answered, "Well it makes a difference to this one."

Do you ever feel like what you try to do in your life just doesn't seem to matter? That nothing is bearing fruit? That efforts fall short? But even if you don't see it, efforts do bear fruit and everything you do matters. I heard a great sermon at Mass yesterday for the feast of the Holy Family, and the priest spoke a lot about merit--how when we make the choice to fulfill our daily duties well no matter how monotonous, we are storing up merit in Heaven. For the Holy Family lived a very simple life: Our Lady cooked, cleaned, sewed....St. Joseph worked, constructed, built...and Our Lord "was subject to them." He lived a hidden life, but such a rich life! Do you ever feel like those who appreciate a life detached from the world discover something so much deeper?

The story of the child and the starfish is how I feel about my writing and my shop. If I reach even just one person, touch one heart, help one soul, it is all worth it. What we do makes a difference. How do we know that a providential smile, glance, or word of encouragement, was not what one person needed to continue on in their struggles? You could be the person whose simple act of charity was the one that made someone turn to God or persevere to the end. Let us not think that because there is so much that can be done, that nothing can be done, but rather not miss any opportunities....since "it makes a difference to this one."