Catholic Treasure Chest

She Who Believed

Photo credit: Blessed Is She

Advent 2017 is just a blur. Amid the typical Christmas run-up of shopping, gift-wrapping and decorating, it was fraught with mysterious stomach viruses, medical tests and insurance battles, and the unexpected deaths of two family friends. Yet, there were memorable moments that made me smile. I heard my due-in-March grandbaby’s heartbeat, enjoyed a glorious season of choir singing at St. Michael’s that culminated in a Midnight Mass that took my breath away, and we booked flights to Rome to go see our son.  My husband and I took our moms on a Christmas-light tour one Friday evening, complete with hot chocolate and candy canes from Santa.  And I stayed anchored to the season with the Blessed Is She Advent journal.

You can read about my experience with the Advent journal here. But suffice it to say I am a fan of Laura Kelly Fanucci’s writing and her incomparable gift of capturing a story and bringing Scripture to life.  When Blessed Is She announced the availability of their new Lent Journal, “She Who Believed,” also written by Laura, I had to have it. Laura’s lyrical, poetic writing is anything but aloof—it brings us right down to earth, eye-level with the women in the Bible that are featured in the journal.  And the journal’s format is down-to-earth too. The pace of the readings and reflections gives us busy women time to pause, take a breath and soak in the meaning of the Lenten season.  The inspiring stories, coupled with practical lessons on prayer, are gently offered to us like a bouquet of flowers from a friend.  Lent begins on Valentine’s Day; why not show yourself a little love and order a copy of this journal? Just go here, but hurry—they will likely sell out soon!

As someone who understands the power of prayer journaling, I anticipate this resource to be an anchor to my Lenten season, even if it passes by in a blur.

Catholic Treasure Chest

A “Blessed Is She” Workshop!

I am honored to be a presenter tomorrow night for the January Blessed Is She workshop: Praying with a Pen: Prayer Journaling as a Spiritual Practice. If you’re interested, go here to sign up! I so appreciate the ministry of Blessed is She. I’ve been following them for a number of years, receiving their daily emails and inspiration and enjoying their workshops and journals. And now here I am doing a workshop for them! The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways!

Catholic Treasure Chest

My Saint of the Year

I’ve picked a saint of the year for the last three years. I am always surprised and delighted with how that particular saint influences my life as I learn more about him or her and asked for intercession. I’ve randomly chosen St. Teresa of Avila, St. Margaret of Antioch and St. Bonaventure. The lessons I’ve learned about humility, being still and the preciousness of life from these three saints are forever etched in my mind. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know saints through this process, so I was looking forward to my selection this year.

My saint for 2018 is…(Drumroll…)

St. Gabriel the Archangel!

St. Gabriel is the patron saint of messengers, telecommunication workers, broadcasters and postal workers. His feast day is celebrated on September 29, along with St. Michael and St. Raphael. He appeared to Daniel and Zecharias and was THE angel that appeared to Mary at the Annunciation.

I wonder what my year with St. Gabriel will bring? I will keep you posted!

If you want to pick a saint of the year, go here for Jennifer Fulwiler’s simple Saint Generator.

(Photo is The Annunciation, depicted in one of our church’s magnificent stained glass windows. Beautiful huh?)

Monday Morning Chocolate

The Plight Before Christmas

Here’s another blast from the past–a popular column I wrote back in 2009 but it’s still relevant today!

‘Tis the month before Christmas and all through the house,

Our two teens leave gift lists for me and my spouse.

They scribble and write, compose and compare,

In hopes that St. Nick has some big bucks to spare!

 

But Dad with his wallet and I with my purse,

Realize things have taken a turn for the worse.

Their lists once contained things that we could afford,

But as they have grown, so the prices have soared!

 

Tinker Toys and Legos have all been replaced,

And items like Play Doh are simply erased.

Where once there was Elmo, and Big Bird and Pooh,

There’s now a cell phone, and an iPod too.

 

Gone are the days of toy cars and doll beds,

When visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

Now they dream of two laptops (one’s hers; one’s his),

And something called a jump drive– who knows what that is?!

 

It’s CDs, and sweaters, and watches and rings,

Computer and Play Station Games of all things.

A DVD burner will do just the trick,

Do they think money grows on trees for St. Nick??

 

More rapid than reindeer the items ring up,

We’ll have to get second and third jobs to keep up!

The deadlines draw nearer, the panic sets in,

I won’t get it all done! Where do I begin?!

 

Away to the bank I will fly like a flash,

To get an infusion of much-needed cash.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a bottom line that’s already too bottom-near.

 

There’s a twitch in my eye and an ache in my head,

Will my checkbook emerge alive or dead?

Which things do I get, for whom and how many?

Excess cash? I sure don’t have any!

 

So I think for a minute, and then start to smile–

The answer’s been with me, there all the while.

I take a deep breath and I slow myself down;

I cancel more plans to go into town.

 

Then I gather my children and with hugs and a kiss,

I remind them it’s not about presents and lists.

It’s about friends and family, and laughter and love,

And the blessings we’re given from God up above.

 

No matter what’s wished for or what gifts are sought,

Christmas is not about things that we’ve bought.

In the midst of the frenzy and the lure of the mall,

We shouldn’t forget….the greatest Gift of all.

 

So our presents get pared down to just two or three,

We’ll wrap them with love and place them under the tree.

And then I’ll exclaim ‘ere I turn in for the night,

“Happy Christmas to all, and…..

may we all get it right!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catholic Treasure Chest

The Need to Kneel

When I returned to the Catholic Church in 2013, it truly felt like a homecoming. I was back in the once-familiar sacred environment I hadn’t even realized I had missed. Back among the statues, the artwork, the stained glass windows, the choir music and all of the sacramentals that add layers of beauty and meaning and value to our faith. And it was as if I saw everything with a fresh set of eyes. I was drawn to the mystery of the tabernacle. I studied the face of Mary in the Pieta. I learned (for the first time?) that the mammoth stained glass windows in our church actually depict the mysteries of the rosary. And I filled a bottle with holy water to take home for my newly-purchased font, like I had when I was a kid (and which, btw, would often have a thin layer of ice on the top of it on the extra-cold winter mornings in my unheated upstairs bedroom!). None of these holy elements were present in the Protestant churches I had attended for 25 years. And my soul had missed them dearly. It puts a grateful lump in my throat just to write about it five years later.

But do you want to know the most surprising item in Church that I never knew I missed and craved and needed in my spiritual life all those years away?

The kneelers.

That’s right. When I came back to the Church, I also returned to the custom of kneeling on a regular basis: Kneeling during Mass. Kneeling during Adoration. And kneeling to pray every morning before the crucifix that hangs near my prayer chair.

I missed kneeling to worship my God. When I was a lukewarm cradle Catholic, using the kneelers was an automatic response to certain words and moments in the liturgy. I put no thought into it (other than when the kneelers would slip and make an embarrassingly loud crash on the marble floor!). I took it for granted. And the Protestant church we attended had no kneelers whatsoever, so the practice simply faded away.

But, oh, my dear friends, how we need to kneel.

That thought came rushing back to me this morning as I read Laura Kelly Fanucci’s reflection in the Blessed is She Advent Journal, “In the Beginning.” She was pondering the visit of the three wise men, and their instinct to fall down and worship the infant Christ Child when at last they found him. She surmised it was an overwhelming mixture of awe and wonder and joy that compelled them to fall to their knees.

I can name several times in my life when I fell to my knees, but it was not in awe and wonder and joy. It was in desperation: When my father-in-law coded after his heart surgery. When my dad died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. When my first baby was lost to miscarriage. Those are times when we involuntarily kneel because we can no longer support ourselves and we need the arms of Jesus to hold us, lift us, carry us.

But now, in this holy season of Advent, as I consider anew the coming of the Savior of the World, I want to fall to my knees more often. In awe and wonder and joy. But also in utter thankfulness. And in surrender. When I am on my knees with my head bowed, it is a posture of humility and surrender and reminds me that this is what my Lord wants from me.

“All He wants is us—not our wealth, or achievements or status or power. Just the open gift of ourselves. We can give Him this. There is nothing to achieve this Advent. There is only ourselves to surrender. He only wants you,” says Laura in the journal. “Sink to your knees. Turn to wonder and worship. Bow your head and let your heart rest in His in joy.”

She knows it. The three wise men knew it. And after decades away, I figured it out too.

We need to kneel.

Sink to your knees–at your bedside, at Mass, during a walk in the woods–wherever!–and give yourself to your Savior this Advent. It’s the best gift you could give him.

Catholic Sistas Post

Everything is an Invitation

If it was possible, I believe this particular wedding invitation would have arrived with a slew of royal trumpet-players in its wake.  Or maybe twelve doves carrying satin ribbons would have gently deposited the invitation in my hands before floating off into the clouds.  Or maybe Ed McMahon would have knocked on my door and showered me with confetti and balloons as he hand-delivered this envelope.

This was a one-of-kind, no-holds-barred, attention-getting invitation for sure. There was no overlooking it among the stack of otherwise-mundane mail. It wanted me to see it. I had to see it.

It got me thinking: wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything God invites me to do was this obvious to me? Yes, I would appreciate that kind of in-your-face notification from my Creator, thank you very much.

Read the rest at Catholic Sistas HERE!