Friday, December 25, 2009

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Today Christ is born, today the Saviour has appeared. Today the angels are singing on earth and the archangels shouting for joy. Today the righteous rejoice, saying ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ Alleluia. (From Evening Prayers - Vespers)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

From Night Prayers (Compline)

All nature stood still in wonder
when you gave flesh
to your own flesh’s Creator.
Virgin at Gabriel’s greeting,
Virgin now and always –
take pity on us sinners.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From Morning Prayers (Lauds)

O God, you saw mankind fallen into death
and sent your only-begotten Son for its redemption.
We humbly and devotedly proclaim his incarnation:
grant that we may deserve to be companions of our Redeemer.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Christ Child's Letter to You . . . as you journey through Advent

The Christ Child's Letter to You . . .
(given as a homily at Immaculate Heart of Mary on the Fourth Sunday of Advent)

Dear Precious One,

It has come to my attention that you are upset that folks are taking my name out of the season.

Here's a guideline: If you want to celebrate my birth, just get along and love one another.

Now, having said that let me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting my birth, then just get rid of a couple of santas and snowmen and put a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all my followers did that, there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember me any time you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish. I actually spoke of that one in a teaching explaining who I am in relation to you. If you have forgotten that one, look it up John 15:1-8.

If you want to give me a present, here is my wish list. Choose something from it.

Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way my birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell me all the time.

Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of my birth, and why I came to live with them. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warn smile, it could make a difference.

Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with people who work there. Give them a warn smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary – especially one who takes my love and Good News to those who have never heard my name.

Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them, buy some food and few gifts and give them to the Vincent DePaul Society or some other charity which believes in me, and they will make the delivery for you.

Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in my presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don’t forget, I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love me do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those who you love and remember. . .

I love you ,

Jesus
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Blessed Fourth Sunday of Advent!

My Advent journey has taken me on a pilgrimage of memories - through the state of Iowa. I have spent each day praying for one Iowa parish and her priest each day.

And now, I come to the end of my Iowa memories.

So, these final days before Our Lord's Birth, I plan to pray for our Bishops. I am thankful for Apostolic Succession - and for the unique gifts it brings to Mother Church. Through 2000+ years, the Holy Spirit has inspired and empowered an unending line of Shepherds to guide the faithful and preserve the faith.

During this season of Advent - and especially during this Year for Priests - I encourage you to pray for the priests and parishes dear to you and also for the Shepherds of this Age.

Blessed Advent.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

St. Joseph's in Earlville - Blessed Advent


On this the seventh day of the third week of Advent, I'm praying for Fr. Herbert Tegeler and St. Joseph's in Earlville, Iowa. Blessed Advent!

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Our Bishops Continue to Seek Protection for the Unborn in Midst of Health Care Reform Process

Cardinal: Casey proposal doesn't fix Senate health bill on abortion

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While welcoming a "good-faith effort" by Sen. Robert Casey to improve the treatment of abortion in the Senate's health reform legislation, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities said a "fundamental problem" remains that makes the bill morally unacceptable.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would continue to oppose the Senate legislation "unless and until" it is amended to "comply with long-standing Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them."

Casey, a Catholic Democrat from Pennsylvania, has proposed language that he says would permit individuals to opt out of abortion coverage in any policy offered in a health-care exchange and would require segregation of funds in the exchange so that federal subsidies are not used to pay for abortions.

But Cardinal DiNardo said Casey's "good-faith effort to allow individuals to 'opt out' of abortion coverage actually underscores how radically the underlying Senate bill would change abortion policy.""Excluding elective abortions from overall health plans is not a privilege that individuals should have to seek as the exception to the norm," he added. "In all other federal health programs, excluding abortion coverage is the norm."

The cardinal also praised provisions in the Casey amendment to improve conscience protections and to support pregnant women and adoptive parents.

"However, these improvements do not change the fundamental problem with the Senate bill" -- its failure to incorporate current abortion restrictions under the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion except in a few limited circumstances.

"We continue to oppose and urge others to oppose the Senate bill unless and until this fundamental failure is remedied," he added.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville - Blessed Advent

I am ashamed to say that I taught in Dyersville, Iowa for two years without once stepping through the doors of the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier.

I was told about the beautiful windows and sanctuary. "Oh, you must see it!" Everyone said.

But I was too busy or didn't think of it or didn't see the point.

We made it to the Field of Dreams. My children hit a few baseballs from home base. But I never visited the most important place in the whole community.

My only defense is that I wasn't Catholic then. Being Catholic makes all the difference.

It looks like I will have the chance to visit that part of Iowa again in a few weeks. And if I am passing through Dyersville at a time when the doors of the Basilica are open . . . I plan to stop for a visit.

I will go into the sanctuary and see the beauty. But I will also genuflect, cross myself, lower the kneeler - and thank Our Lord for the journey of grace that has brought me home.

On this, the sixth day of the third week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Phillip Kruse and the Basilica of St. Francis of Xavier.

May those who live in this community - though not Catholic - see the light of the faithful lived out before them . . . and may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions.

Blessed Advent!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

St. Joseph's in Farley - Blessed Advent

I have been trying to come up with a reason why I can remember the towns around Dyersville, Iowa. I didn't really live there. I just taught there. (I actually lived twenty miles away in Ryan, Iowa.)

But I taught Spanish there, and we did an awful lot of dialogue . . . in Spanish.

One of the "practice discussions" we would have is this:

De donde eres? (Where are you from)

Soy de EEUU. (I am from the United States)

But the students liked to express their individuality and everyone in the class could say they were from the U.S. For that matter, they could all say they were from Iowa.

What was unique and interesting to them was which small town (and small parish) they belonged to. So the answers usually went like this:

Soy de Holy Cross.

Soy de Earlville.

Soy de Dyersville.

Soy de Farley.

And so, today I am praying for another priest and parish in the area of Beckman High School. On this, the fifth day of the third week of Advent, I am praying for Fr. Dennis Cain and St. Joseph's in Farley, Iowa. May those who live near this parish, though they are not Catholic, see the light of the St. Joseph's laity lived out in their community. And may the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed a Jewish girl named Mary and brought the Divine Light to a lost world . . . shine a light in this community that leads to the conversion of many souls.

God bless you on this fifth day of the third week of Advent!

Come, Lord Jesus!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holy Cross in Holy Cross, Iowa - Blessed Advent

They were my first group of students. For a small Catholic high school in the middle of rural Iowa, Beckman had about 130 students taking Spanish in 1989-1991, my first year as a teacher.

They had me running from the first day. It's not easy to keep up with students who have an 90% college-bound graduation rate. On top of that, Spanish was only my minor.

But it was a teaching job when I really needed one. And the faculty and staff were terrific, even to the non-Catholic new 1st year teacher (me).

And the group of freshmen . . . well they were the best reason for signing on the dotted line.

I loved those kids. I doubt they knew that. But I did. And there were many times as the years went by that I wished I could go back and teach them all over again.

One of the more frustrating things about teaching at Beckman - and loving your core group of students as I did - was that I could not go forward to receive Holy Communion with them. I remember feeling an ache in my heart as I watched them stand and move toward the Altar.

And at the same time, I knew that I didn't embrace all of Catholic teaching. I thought I knew most of it, but now I realize that I did not know much at all. The Holy Spirit hadn't come along and blown out the dusty corners of my soul to make room for Catholic teaching . . . to make room for the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Years later, when that miracle of grace happened, and my eyes were opened, and I saw the Eucharist as though for the first time . . . and I received the teachings of Mother Church without preconceived ideas and biases . . . I wanted to run to the Altar. I wanted to receive this One I had loved since I was a little girl. I wanted to be freed from the past so I could receive Holy Communion, not simply because my heart longed to accompany students to the Altar. But because I hungered for all of Jesus.

It was not enough that I had asked Him to come into my heart when I was a little girl. It was not enough to love Him and want to serve Him. I needed Him. I needed the grace of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

I had lived long enough to know that I couldn't manage the journey toward holiness without something more. And that something that I needed was the Eucharist . . . and the only Church with valid Holy Orders to give us priests who can pray the prayer of Consecration and bring Jesus to us!

About a month or two after entering the Church, I was walking forward to receive the Eucharist and the Communion song was "One Bread, One Body". The tears began to run down my face.

That was the song they sang at Beckman High School when the students went forward to receive. That was the song that brought me back to that time, those students, that missed opportunity, that incredible gift of teaching in this Catholic school, though I had very little in my resume (or in my soul) to warrant it.

And I realized, as that song played and the Faithful sang the words, that I am more in union with those students I taught so long ago than I was when I introduced them to another culture and language.

Today, I am in full union with the teachings of Mother Church, and I am free to stand and walk that aisle that leads to my greatest joy, the Eucharist.

The students came from a number of parishes in the area. Today, I turn my prayers to Fr. Raymond Burkle and Holy Cross Parish. May those who live near this parish - though not Catholic - see the light of the Faithful lived out in the community and may the same Holy Spirit who gave us our Infant Redeemer bring about many conversions through the witness of the Holy Cross laity.

On this, the fourth day of the third week of Advent, may God bless you!


Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

St. Patrick's in Ryan and St. Mary's in Manchester - Blessed Advent!

It seems like a lifetime ago, but after college graduation (University of Dubuque), we moved to Ryan, Iowa. Actually, we lived in the country near Ryan. The UCC parish (where my husband* was the student pastor) was a few yards from the large country house where we lived. On the other side of the church was a cemetery. . . and the church, house and cemetery were surrounded by acres and acres of corn fields.

About the time we moved to Ryan, I began teaching at Beckman High School in Dyersville (home of the Field of Dreams). There was no way that we would have become Catholic at that time. Too much was riding on being Protestant. But, if we had been open to the grace that leads to Mother Church, we would have been members of St. Patrick's in Ryan or St. Mary's in Manchester.

So, today I'm praying for Fr. John Flaherty and two of the parishes he serves - St. Patrick's and St. Mary's. May the same Spirit that overshadowed the Blessed Virgin and brought us the long-awaited Messiah shine on these parishes. And may the laity be a light that draws many more into the arms of Mother Church.

Blessed third day of the third week of Advent!
*this non-sacramental marriage was annulled prior to my entry into Mother Church

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Church of the Nativity in Dubuque - Blessed Advent


On this, the second day of third week of Advent, I'm praying for Fr. Dwayne Thoman and the Church of the Nativity in Dubuque. May those who live near this parish - though not Catholic - see the light of the Catholic laity in their community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversion through the witness of the Faithful.


Blessed second day of the third week of Advent.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

St. Mary's in Dubuque - Blessed Advent


On this, the third Sunday of Advent, I'm praying for Fr. Steven J. Rosonke and St. Mary's in Dubuque. May those who live near St. Mary's - though not Catholic - see the light of the Catholic laity in their community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversion through the witness of the Faithful.


Blessed third Sunday of Advent.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque - Blessed Advent

On this, the seventh day of the second week of Advent, I'm praying for Rev. Msgr. Wayne A. Ressler and the Cathedral of St. Raphael. May those who live near the Cathedral - though not Catholic - see the light of the Catholic laity in their community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversion through the witness of St. Raphael's Cathedral.

Blessed seventh day of the second week of Advent.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Welcome, Diocese of Oakland!

A big welcome to readers of The Catholic Voice in the Diocese of Oakland, CA! You are the 36th diocesan paper to run an article from the Catholic by Grace column!
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Iowa, Here I Come!

I'll be going back to Iowa on January 10 to share my conversion story with young people at St. Columbkille Parish in Dubuque! Let's see, I haven't been in Dubuque since 1989!

So much has happened since I lived in the married student housing on the campus of the Presbyterian seminary - and I would steal minutes away to secretly watch Mother Angelica on EWTN.

God, you are amazing.

And I'm going to Iowa! Whoo-hoo!

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Holy Ghost Parish in Dubuque - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.


On this, the fifth day of the second week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Thomas Zinkula and Holy Ghost Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the Holy Ghost laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.


Blessed fifth day of the second week.


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From Morning Prayer (Lauds)

Lord, inspire our hearts to prepare a place
for your only-begotten Son
so that when he comes
we may be pure and worthy to serve you.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

St. Anthony Parish in Dubuque - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

On this, the fourth day of the second week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Daniel Knepper and St. Anthony Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the St. Anthony laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.

Blessed fourth day of the second week.

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Blessed Feast of St. Juan Diego!


Almost 20 years ago, I began my first teaching position at Beckman High School in Dyersville, Iowa. In spite of the fact that Spanish was my minor and I wasn’t a Catholic convert at the time, I found myself the only foreign language teacher in a small Catholic high school, teaching all levels of Spanish to about 160 students. I remember having little confidence as a teacher and even less in the subject matter.


I pulled activities and assignments from every possible place. Somehow, I came across a little story written in simple Spanish which I thought my upper level students would be able to translate. I considered the story nothing more than an interesting Catholic legend.


Thankfully, I did not propagate my misunderstanding, but rather simply assigned the story to my students and left religion instruction to the religion department.


In January of 2005, while nearing the end of my conversion to the Catholic faith, I received one of many “care packages” from Randy and Mary Hill, a married couple in the Archdiocese of St. Louis that had taken me under their wings when they discovered that I was converting. The box they sent to me contained a book on Marian apparitions entitled A Woman Clothed with the Sun by John J. Delaney. While reading a chapter on Our Lady of Guadalupe, I came across something that would take that little story out of the realm of legend and into the realm of absolute reality for me.


In 1990, while completing a college-level course on Latin America, I learned a couple of Nahuatl words (Aztec language), one of which was “cuatl” (pronounced kwah-tell, emphasis on first syllable). Translated, it means snake or serpent. The Aztec people even had a god named Quetzalcuatl, which literally translates to plumed serpent.


The book I was reading explained that the Aztec pronunciation of the word “Guadalupe” would have been something like kwah-tell lah-shoop-ay. So, when the Lady said her name to Juan Diego’s uncle, he would have interpreted the first part as snake because cuatl and guadal are both pronounced kwah-tell. What I didn’t know—which the book explained for me—is that the Aztec translation of the second half of that phrase literally means to trod on something. When I put it all together, I was stunned. In Nahuatl, the name Guadalupe means One who trods on snake! So when the Lady repeated her name for a poor, uneducated Aztec man, saying call me Santa Maria de Guadalupe, she was actually saying, call me Holy Mary of One who has trod on the snake. In Genesis 3:15, this is the name God reserves for Mary, the second Eve; so when the woman says her name, she gives the name the Lord planned for her from the beginning of time.


I have no idea how I overlooked the miracles behind the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe all those years ago. I’m sure it’s because I didn’t put together that cuatl and guadal have virtually identical pronunciations in Nahuatl, and I had never learned the translation for the rest of the compound epithet. Still, it amazes me that I could teach Spanish in a Catholic high school, assign the reading to upper level classes, and not know the whole story. It cuts me to the heart when I realize that I taught my students about the conquistadors, but not the miracle of eight million baptisms that occurred in the seven years following the vision. Some sources estimate that the actual number of conversions might have been closer to nine million (with the total Aztec population only ten million at that time).


I’ve promised myself that one day I will visit Mexico and see the five-hundred-year-old tilma that bears the image of Our Lady. I just wish I could gather all my former students together in one place and have another chance to teach them the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. With uncensored delight, I would ask them if they have heard the story—the true story—of the Woman who converted a nation with the help of a few Spanish roses, a cloak called a tilma, and one very humble Aztec man named Juan Diego.


I urge you to read more about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and let the story speak for itself.


Santa Maria, mi Madre Nueva, gracias—por todos los milagros y las lecciones del corazon. Holy Mary, my new Mother, thank you – for all the miracles and lessons of the heart.


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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Resurrection Parish in Dubuque - Blessed Advent


This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

On this, the third day of the second week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Joseph Hauer and Resurrection Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the Resurrection laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.

Blessed third day of the second week.


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Monday, December 7, 2009

St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Dubuque - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

On this, the second day of the second week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Mark Ressler and St. Joseph the Worker Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the St. Joseph laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.
Blessed second day of the second week.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Columbkille Parish in Dubuque - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.


My life after high school was a busy one. Those next ten years brought three children and many more moves.

I lived in Illinois and Missouri before moving back to Iowa where my first husband (marriage later annulled) could attend seminary. I would never have predicted that he would pursue ministry and attend the same Presbyterian Seminary (University of Dubuque) that my father had attended many years earlier. Life is strange like that sometimes. We only spent his first year of seminary living in Dubuque. The final two years were spent at a student pastorate in Ryan, Iowa. But during that year in Dubuque, I began watching EWTN and was fascinated by a nun on Catholic television named Mother Angelica. The married student housing on the campus of University of Dubuque had cable television. And Dubuque cable carried EWTN before many of the other cable stations (since Dubuque was a solidly Catholic town). I would have to say that this was a significant moment in my journey.

It proves that even when our hearts are not seeking, God is working all things for His purposes. This final year of my own college degree (also at the University of Dubuque - undergraduate school) was the beginning of my deeper encounters with Catholics.

And I guess one could say that it began at Dubuque, in those quiet moments with EWTN and Mother Angelica. When my seminary husband would come up the stairs and approach the door to our apartment, I usually changed the channel. Why? Because it was a fascination that I couldn't even explain to myself. And so, I kept these things inside.


On this, the first day of the second week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Gabriel Anderson and St. Columbkille Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the St. Columbkille laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.



Blessed first day of the second week.
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

My New Grandson is Here!


Giovanni jr. was born on December 4th. Here's my new little man!

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Sacred Heart Parish - Blessed Advent


This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

As so often happens, our family moved yet again so that my father could take a new pastorate, this time in Manning, Iowa. I only lived there one year, my senior year of high school. The Sacred Heart Parish, like Mother Church, did not hit my radar. It's not that I was a solid Presbyterian. It had more to do with being a confused high school senior and the new student in a new town. I was too busy with everything . . . making all of those decisions in early life that send us on a crash course to broken hearts and broken dreams. And yet, when it all fell apart, I was left with the kind of heart that is ready to learn, ready to hear a new thing, ready to try something other than my own whims.


On this, the seventh day of the first week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Robert Gralapp and Sacred Heart Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the Sacred heart laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.

Blessed seventh day of the first week.



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Friday, December 4, 2009

Daughter Having Baby!

Dear Friends,

I will be away from my computer (not sure how long) as my daughter is in labor and my first grandchild will be born very soon.

Still journeying with you until the day of Our Lord's birth . . .

Denise
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Immaculate Conception in Riceville - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

In the mid 1970s, my father returned to pastoral ministry. The former Wesleyan minister answered a call to re-enter the pastorate, this time as a Presbyterian. During the preceding months, while living on the family farm, two yoked Presbyterian churches were in between pastors (Lime Springs Presbyterian and Saratoga Presbyterian). The vacancy in their pulpits meant that they had to find a guest preacher every week until they could decide on a new pastor to replace their previous pastor. In Presbyterian churches, this process can take up to two years. My father was asked to fill the pulpit on Sunday morning. This became a weekly event. Eventually, the two Presbyterian parishes asked him to become their permanent pastor.

We changed schools once again, this time attending Riceville Community School (from 5th grade through 11th grade).

Our years in Riceville are, for me, the best years of my childhood. If there is a part of Iowa that has my heart, it is this town.

This is also the beginning of my deeper awareness of the Catholic Church. It wasn't just a parish on the other side of our public school playground (as when we lived in Cedar Falls). It was the parish of many of my school friends. That gave it meaning. It gave the parish character, personality, hands-and-feet, a face.

I heard these friends talk about Catholic things. I still believed that we had a better (perhaps even purer) faith, but I was beginning to listen . . . to take note.

We passed Immaculate Conception Parish twice every day on our way to and from school. We passed it every time we attended basketball games or football games or picked up a few groceries.

One evening, as we passed this parish, my father asked my mother if she knew what they meant by "Immaculate Conception". She said it probably had something to do with Jesus' birth. My father said, no, it refers to Mary's conception. Catholics believe she was conceived free of sin. My parents talked about that for a few minutes while I listened from the back seat.

It would be a significant memory for me. I would carry a prejudice against this teaching for decades and struggle with it during my own conversion into the Catholic Church. It would almost stop my journey. And indeed, it would have stopped my journey . . . if not for a miracle and a lot of grace.

The years at Riceville were full of many things. My father attended seminary in Dubuque and encountered some priests from the Catholic colleges in town (Loras and Clark). He began to accept the Presbyterian position on infant baptism. In fact, he became more sacramental in his theology, and my sister and I were baptized, we learned the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer (Our Father), and attend Presbyterian confirmation class.

In my middle school years, I attended Mass with one of my friends while spending the weekend with her family. I didn't have any clue as to what was taking place, but it was my closest encounter with the Eucharist - until I entered my 20s.
Another friend stayed overnight at my house and we spent one afternoon in my dad's church talking about the differences in our worship experiences. Catholic vs. Presbyterian.
My junior year, I went to prom with a Catholic boy. I had a serious crush on him and I think that fact also raised my awareness of his parish, Immaculate Conception.

Once again, I was blessed during these years to grow in my understanding of the faith - and the gifts we had as Presbyterians, even though we did not realize that all these gifts were ours because they were entrusted to Mother Church first and foremost.

No, we saw the faith differently. Christianity - in our minds - did not have a history to be traced. We had the Gospel stories and the other writings in the New Testament. But then, our legacy stopped, until the 1500s. We did not learn about the saints who lived during those first 1500 years. We did not study the Church Fathers. Or the development of doctrine. We did not discuss the origin of Sacred Scripture, how it too came from the Catholic Church, as She followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

All these things were ours in isolation. They were gifts . . . that simply were. As though dropped down from heaven to no one in particular, to be picked up by Protestant Evangelicals somewhere in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Once again, we were in possession of many graces because we had received so many good things from our Catholic heritage - even if we didn't recognize the source.

On this, the sixth day of the first week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Ray E. Atwood and Immaculate Conception Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the Immaculate Conception laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.

Blessed sixth day of the first week.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

St. Patrick Parish in Hampton - Blessed Advent


This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

Today, my focus is on another town/parish near Lime Springs, Iowa. If you read yesterday's posting, you know how I came to live near this parish.

On this, the fifth day of the first week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Bernard C. Grady of St. Patrick Parish in Hampton, Iowa. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the St. Patrick's laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth. Blessed fifth day of the first week.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Notre Dame in Cresco - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

Tragedy occurs when we least expect it. Early in December of 1973, my grandfather climbed a ladder on the side of one of his grain bins on the family farm. The cold December air had caused a layer of frozen moisture to form on the top of the corn. With wrench in hand, grandpa began breaking up the surface of the corn. We don't know why it happened, but somehow, grandpa lost his footing and fell into the bin.

The call came late in the day. My parents immediately began planning a move to northern Iowa. Grandma needed help with the farm.

My father stepped away from pastoral ministry in 1974 and suddenly, I had a farmer for a father. While he would eventually return to the pastorate, it would never be as a Wesleyan minister. The next time he stepped into a pulpit, it would be as a Presbyterian.

There wasn't a question about where we would attend Sunday worship services during our time on the farm. We went to grandma's church - an old United Methodist church in Lime Springs, Iowa.

I'm not completely certain of this, but I believe the Catholics who farmed the land surrounding Lime Springs (or lived in the very small town of the same name) attended Mass in Cresco, Iowa. Today's prayers focus on one of the parishes in Cresco. Notre Dame. Had we been Catholic, it is likely that we would have received the Sacraments from this parish. I realize that I was never far from Mother Church, no matter where we lived. While we worshipped in a United Methodist church, there is no denying the fact that many of our faith practices, the Scripture we cherished, and most of the tenets of our faith came from Holy Mother Church.

Though we never talked about the Catholic Church and we never even stepped through the doors of Notre Dame Parish, we were in possession of many graces because we had received so many good things from our Catholic heritage - even if we didn't recognize the source.

On this, the fourth day of the first week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Richard J Ament and Notre Dame Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the Notre Dame laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.Blessed fourth day of the first week.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are You Looking For a Christmas Novena? Try this blog.

If you are interested in praying a Christmas Novena this Advent to prepare your heart for the Messiah's birth, try the one at this blog: http://acatholicmomaftergodsownheart.blogspot.com/

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Welcoming Diocese of Alexandria!

Sending a hearty welcome to the Diocese of Alexandria, LA. You are the 35th diocesan paper to run the Catholic by Grace column! It's a joy to be part of your diocese!
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St. Patrick's in Cedar Falls - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

Like most pastor's families, we moved a number of times during my childhood. By the time I began second grade, we were living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Lincoln Elementary was an old building, the kind that is cold and drafty, with interesting nooks and crannies, old timey hooks for coats in the side rooms and wood accents that reveal traces of the thousands upon thousands of children who had passed through the doors.

The playground was boring. Monkey bars. Swings. A field for kickball. I suppose that is why I spent any time at all taking note of the neighborhood beyond the Lincoln grounds. Across the street, there was a Catholic elementary. I was fascinated by the children who played there. They wore uniforms and the teachers who did playground duty at that school were nuns dressed in full habit.


It was the first time I realized that there were Christian schools. It mystified me. I was the daughter of a preacher. I couldn't understand why my parents wouldn't send me to that school. Everything we did was Christian. Yet, we went to a public school when there was a Christian school just yards away.

That year, I learned that the Christian world is not united. We were Christian. Our entire lives were defined by our Christian identity.

But this was where it ended. We did not identify ourselves with Catholic Christians.

On this, the third day of the first week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Everett Hemann and St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the St. Patrick's laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.Blessed third day of the first week.

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December Catholic by Grace Article

Do Catholics think about St. Anne during Advent? I don’t know the answer to questions like that as I have only been Catholic a few years. I’m thinking about St. Anne this year. If you are about to be a grandmother for the first time – like I am – St. Anne just might be on your mind this December as well.

I’d never heard the names of Mary’s parents until I became Catholic. As an Evangelical Protestant, we kept it simple. What do we know about Mary’s parents from Sacred Scripture? Nothing. And so, we left it at that. We assumed that the lineage of Mary had been lost over the centuries. We didn’t realize that the Church had always known the names of her mother and father. According to Church Tradition, Mary’s mother was named Anne and her father was Joachim.


I find it interesting to think of Our Lord’s grandmother during Advent. I simply cannot imagine what it was like for Anne to say goodbye to her pregnant daughter and watch as the couple left Nazareth and headed down the road for Bethlehem. Anne must have known that the birth would come before she would see her daughter again. She must have treasured those final days and hours, carefully preparing her daughter for childbirth and the care of the umbilical cord, the technique for swaddling the newborn, and the finer points of nursing.


She must have sent her daughter off with a mother’s blessing: may your labor be quick and easy. She must have been overcome with longing, when she placed her hand on her daughter’s swollen belly and felt the Messiah kick.


She must have felt all these things – if she was like me. If she was like every first time grandmother.


I wonder, too, what it was like after the census. When the Holy Family realized they would not be returning to Nazareth any time soon, did they send word to the grandparents that their grandson had been safely born? Did they tell someone who was traveling back to Nazareth to inform Anne and Joachim of the change in their plans? That they were going to Egypt? That they couldn’t come back for a very long time?


Did the messenger tell the grandparents in Nazareth that God had another plan for the little Holy Family?


And did Anne cry at the news? Did she long to see her daughter one more time? Did she ache to hold the grandson who would save her people?


Sometime during this month, God willing, I will see my daughter again. She might be resting in a hospital bed, watching her little boy as he sleeps in the bassinet nearby. Maybe she will be holding him when I walk through the door. Maybe she will be feeding him.


I pray that I will be a wise grandmother. A good grandmother. Precisely the kind of grandmother this little boy will need. As we count these final days of Advent, anticipating the arrival of our Infant King, I will be thinking of the Holy Family, but I will also be contemplating the grandparents back in Nazareth, who kissed their daughter goodbye over two thousand years ago – and gave their precious girl and her unborn child to a world that needed them both desperately.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Blessed Advent from the USCCB to You!

http://www.usccb.org/advent/

The USCCB has a great website for tons of Advent and Christmas family activities, prayers, blessings and reflections. Check it out by clicking on the link above!

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Sacred Heart in Walker - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

My second Iowa home was at Hoover, Iowa. Don't try to look it up on a map. You aren't likely to find it. And if you were to drive there, you would realize immediately that there is almost nothing to see, save a parsonage (where the pastor and family live), a small white country church and an adjacent cemetery. On the other side of the gravel road, there is a farm. The Hoover family lives there - they have for generations - and that is how the little church got its name. Hoover Wesleyan.

I learned to love God in this place - with all the devotion and full trust of early childhood. God was everything, when I was a child of four years.

Even though I had not received the grace of baptism, the Lord was calling me to come closer to His Sacred Heart.

It is fitting, then, that the nearest Catholic parish was named Sacred Heart. It was a few minutes away, in Walker, Iowa. When I was old enough to go to school. The bus would stop at the Hoover Church and pick my sister and me up. We would drive those back roads of Iowa, through the village of Troy Mills, and stop at the elementary school in Walker.

I never saw Sacred Heart parish. I only know it exists because I found it on the Internet.

But the parish is there. And so, I know, the Eucharist is there - giving light and life to the communities where I lived and played and learned so long ago.

On this, the second day of the first week of Advent, I pray for Fr. David Ambrosy and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Walker, Iowa.

May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the Sacred Heart laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.

Blessed second day of the first week.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

St. Mary's in Oskaloosa - Blessed Advent

This Advent, I plan to spend time each day praying for one parish (and her priest) from the state of Iowa. I no longer live in Iowa, but it is my childhood home. Since I cannot go to Iowa for Advent and Christmas, I will pray for special Iowa places from my Missouri home.

My first Iowa home was in Oskaloosa. My parents were students in a Bible college there and met and married at the end of their freshman year. Within a year, my sister was born. Almost eleven months later, I came along.

Wesleyans did not believe in infant baptism, so I was dedicated to God soon after my birth. I am not sure where this took place, but it likely occurred at the Wesleyan church where my father was a student pastor (in a town near Oskaloosa).

Had I been born into a Catholic family, I would have been baptized into the Faith at St. Mary's Catholic Church.

So, I begin with this Iowa parish. Today, I am praying a special prayer for Rev. Thomas J. Spiegel and St. Mary's in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the St. Mary's laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.

Blessed first day of the first week.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Welcome, Agua Viva!


A big welcome to the readers of Agua Viva - the official paper of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico. You are the 34th paper to run the Catholic by Grace column!

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And so it begins . . .

As I write this blog posting, the first Mass of Advent is taking place at my parish. Areas east of here have already entered into the Saturday Vigil of the First Sunday of Advent 2009.

And so, I want to wish everyone a very blessed first week of Advent. Let us begin the journey to Bethlehem . . .

. . . Blessed Mother, show us what it means to be docile to the Holy Spirit's movement in our lives. Heavenly Father, guide us in the journey even as you guided your People in their journey through Salvation History, so that we, too, may encounter the Messiah and share the good news of His coming with a world who desperately needs the breath of divine love.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

From Morning Prayers (Lauds)

For he has strengthened the bars of your gates,
he has blessed your children.
He keeps your borders in peace,
he fills you with the richest wheat.
He sends out his command over the earth,
and swiftly runs his word.
He sends down snow that is like wool,
frost that is like ashes.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

St. Catherine of Alexandria on her Feast Day


I started the morning late . . . so the family and dogs were up before I could get to the morning prayers. I quickly scanned the feast day, and the word "outspoken" caught my eye. I didn't read the entire passage on St. Catherine of Alexandria. No time. I had to get the A.M. prayer posted. But I told myself to go back to St. Catherine after things settled down.

Why was this important to me? I wanted to know more about the saint who was described as outspoken . . . because I'm outspoken. The older I get, the more outspoken I become.

St. Catherine of Alexandria died in 305 A.D. She spoke out against the persecutions of the Christians and openly protested the emperor Maxentius. He had her arrested, tortured and decapitated.

Being outspoken is a trait that comes with a price.

What we can learn from this saint is that she did not speak out on things that didn't matter. She spoke out for brothers and sisters in the faith. She defended Mother Church. She demanded justice and peace for the innocent.

Being opinionated is not a praiseworthy trait. There is no reason to weigh in on every subject. But when it comes to protecting the innocent and defending Mother Church, we must speak up.

Even if we lose our head for it.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Quotes by St. Clement I on his Feast Day

Charity unites us to God. There is nothing mean in charity, nothing arrogant. Charity knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity all the elect of God have been made perfect.

Let your children, be bred up in the instruction of the Lord, and learn how great a power humility has with God, how much a pure and holy charity avails with him, and how excellent and great his fear is.

Let every one be subject to another, according to the order in which he is placed by the gift of God.

We have said enough, on the necessity of repentance, unity, peace, for we have been speaking to the faithful, who have deeply studied the Scriptures, and will understand the examples pointed out, and will follow them. We shall indeed be happy if you obey.

And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the office of bishop. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they have given a law, so that, if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration.

But if certain persons should be disobedient unto the words spoken by Him through us let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger; but we shall be guiltless of this sin.

The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles from Christ.

We must look upon all the things of this world, as none of ours, and not desire them. This world and that to come are two enemies. We cannot, therefore, be friends to both; but we must resolve which we would forsake, and which we would enjoy. And we think, that it is better to hate the present things, as little, short-lived, and corruptible; and to love those which are to come, which are truly good and incorruptible.

Let us contend with all earnestness, knowing that we are now called to the combat. Let us run in the straight road, the race that is incorruptible. This is what Christ saith: keep your bodies pure and your souls without spot, that ye may receive eternal life.

The Lord has turned all our sunsets into sunrise.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Children Fallen Away From the Catholic Church? We should try this campaign in the US.

(Catholic.org) The bishops' conference of England and Wales is sponsoring a campaign uniting mothers everywhere who pray for their children to come back to the Church for Christmas.

The bishop encouraged all people, but mothers in particular, to participate in a novena of prayer from Dec. 12 to Dec. 20.


He added, "By the grace of God let's pray that thousands experience a deep encounter with the living God and that the invitations we issue to 'come home' are warmly received."
(Read the article in its entirety by clicking on the link above.)

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What Are You Doing For Advent?

We are doing the usual at our house this Advent. Next Sunday, we will put up the Advent Wreath. At some point, we'll decorate the mantle and buy a tree. The Nativity Set will come out - except for Baby Jesus, who remains hidden away until Christmas Eve.

But what are you doing that's unique and exclusively part of this year's Advent?

I'm going home this Advent.

Each day of Advent, I plan to pray for one Iowa parish and her priest. I will pray for a different parish and priest each day.

Iowa is my home state. I haven't been able to spend Advent or Christmas in Iowa for many years. This year, I'm going home . . . if only in my private moments with Our Lord.

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Unending Hymn of Praise - isn't that great!

". . . unending hymn of praise . . ."


Do you ever hear something with new ears? Do you ever hear something - perhaps something you've heard many times before - but this time you hear it as though for the first time.


In Mass this morning the words "unending hymn of praise" resonated with me. It is a posture of the heart, mind and soul that is lacking in me all too often.


But lately, I feel like I am being called to it. To happiness. To joy. To an unending hymn of praise to Our Lord and King.


Blessed Feast Day . . .


Continue to move through this, the holiest day of the week, by lifting that unending hymn of praise.

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Blessed Feast of Christ the King

Come, let us worship Jesus Christ, the King of kings.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blessed Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary



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Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning from Mary

If there was such a thing as a reader award, it would have to go to Jennifer. She logs on throughout the day - every day. She posts comments now and then, with a thought or a word of encouragement. She probably has no idea how much that means.

She has a blog of her own. A Catholic Mom After God's Own Heart. You should check it out. I feel my stress level go down just by clicking on. It simply looks pleasing to the eye - aesthetically. And it is dripping with grace.

There's a Scripture verse at the top of Jennifer's blog that sets the tone. I remember the first time I ran across that verse . . . I couldn't make sense of it. It was a number of years ago and I was just reading during devotional time. Devotional time is the term Evangelicals use in place of Lectio Divina. In other words, reading Sacred Scripture prayerfully.


The verse is I Timothy 2:15. But a woman will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Okay, if you're Evangelical, you were always told that you are saved by saying the sinner's prayer of repentance. Jesus, Come into my heart. Forgive my sins. I accept you as Lord.

That's it. And that's what I believed . . . until I read I Timothy 2:15.

Hold everything. What's this? A woman will be saved through motherhood? What is that all about? I thought we were all saved by asking Jesus to come inside. You didn't have to do anything. It was free. Grace. Faith. Belief.
And then a new picture started to take shape. It began with the venue for salvation. It had something to do with perseverance. Suffering as in labor. Self-giving and self-donating like a mother. Living a life of daily holiness, even in the most trying moments.

Like the morning after you bury your father and your daughter is sick with the stomach flu and throwing up and you are holding her head and wanting to cry and never stop crying but you need to get it together and go be a hostess to all the cousins who have borrowed your bedrooms and bathrooms in order to be there . . . and your older children are grieving and your mother is completely lost and nobody expected any of this to happen just three days after Christmas and you don't know what you are going to do now. Yes, that is what it's like to be a mother. Motherhood stops for nothing. Motherhood requires everything that we are. No matter what.

Eventually, the verse takes on more layers. Salvation is not a moment in time. In this verse salvation is yet to come. It is written in the future tense. I cannot assume that it is a done deal. Not something past. But rather, it is something yet to come.

And the final layer. The layer that no Protestant can grasp - unless he enters Mother Church:

This verse is about perseverance, suffering, holiness, love, self-donation, and -- it is about a mother who embraced all of this. The Blessed Mother. The Queen of mothers. The one who said yes to an angel and yes to motherhood and opened the gates for salvation to enter in.

In the heart of the Blessed Mother, we see how all of this comes together. We realize that we, too, can learn from her. In the heart of Mother Church.

Salvation is not a moment in time when we say a prayer.

Salvation will be ours provided we learn the lesson of perfect motherhood.

May it be done unto me, according to your word.

Amen

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That's What It Is Like . . .

Have you ever thought about how quick God is to forgive us?

The woman caught in sin . . . Jesus stood in the gap. He told her accusers to cast the first stone if they were without sin. Then, Our Lord forgave the woman and told her to go and sin no more.


The thief on the cross . . . Jesus turned to him the moment this sinner spoke words of contrition and acknowledged his sin. Today, Jesus said, you will be with me in Paradise.



The woman in the confessional . . . Jesus listens patiently, offers words of help and discernment, and immediately says, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In today's morning prayers, we are instructed to forgive others as readily as Christ has forgiven us.

Do you feel a groan well up in your spirit? Not a groan like the teenager gives his mother when she tells him to take out the trash.
But the kind of groan an athlete makes when the coach instructs him to do something he just doesn't believe he can do -- having never quite done it successfully in the past -- wanting to please, yet completely aware of his own weaknesses.

Yes, that's what it's like.

But then, the athlete submits and says, okay, I'll try.

And this time, when he tries and succeeds, the moment is very satisfying, because he knows, if he turns around and looks at the coach, the coach will still have his eyes on him, having seen the whole thing. And the young athlete knows that the coach will be smiling . . .



And that, too, is what it's like. Jesus forgives us the moment we confess with true contrition. He asks us to be willing to do the same with one another. I groan because I just don't think I'm capable of that kind of heroic virtue. Jesus knows that I can do it. Okay, I'll try.
And that's the moment of grace. That's the moment when we sail over the bar that seemed far too high. That's the moment we hear the Master say Well done.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Latest Award - thanks Mama Kalila!

Mama Kalila gave me a Blog Award...

It's called The Honest Scrap

Rules:
Present this to 7 other blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design or those who have encouraged me.

Tell those people they've won the award and the guidelines.
Share 10 honest things about myself.
Let's give this a shot:
1. I' m a preacher's daughter, but I always treasured it - well, when we moved right before my senior year so Dad could pastor a new church . . . I wasn't so thrilled.
2. I eat WAY too much sweet stuff.
3. I recently quit coloring my hair.
4. My favorite snack is Cheerios.
5. I had a vision when I was 9 - in which I saw myself as an old woman (at nine, a person is old at 50, so I'm almost there). The best part of all is that the things I knew from that vision are coming true . . . if you want to know more, post a comment.
6. My favorite color as a child was green - and it still is my favorite.
7. I love the Journey Home program and also 18 Kids and Counting . . . or is it 19? I've lost track.
8. My husband truly is my best friend.
9. I am really excited about being a grandma - for the first time - maybe tonight's the night! (My daughter is in labor as I write this.)
10. My greatest joy, my deepest happiness, the moment that brings me the most peace in this entire world is the moment when I am on my knees, having just recieved the Eucharist. Indeed, I am blessed to be Catholic by Grace.
My favorite blogs:
Thanks Mama Kalila for the Award!

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Is Tonight The Night?

My daughter just called and she thinks she might be in labor. Just three nights ago, the priest at our parish mission said that women understand the fine line between great suffering and intense love - more than anyone else. The priest was using mothers as a case-in-point, explaining the treasure we have, as Catholics, to offer every little cross for graces to be poured into the life of someone we love. Hence, the thin line that separates suffering and love.

Mothers get it. In an instant, the worst suffering they have ever encountered is swept aside, and the most intense love they have ever felt takes its place.

I'm going to go have a glass of wine and think about life and labor and moments of great grace.

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A Catholic Writer's Creed

I have the quote on my Facebook page. I read it to remind myself. I read it to convict myself. I read to give me some measuring stick as I discern what information, public opinion, and plain old chatter to keep and what to throw out.

It's a quote by St. Augustine on unity.

"There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church." -St. Augustine

Yesterday, one of my articles ran at Catholic Exchange. It was the most pinged article that I have written for them. Free Republic picked it up. More readers commented.

The goal of the article was to raise awareness that it is too early to weigh in on the health care reform bill - because we simply do not know what the final bill will look like. The USCCB has not even given its final blessing to the still-in-transition bill.

At least 1/3 of the readers' comments were critical of our Bishops.

Then, one person wrote and stood in the gap for our Church leadership. I was incredibly thankful for his courage.

At the same time that I was wrestling with the CE reader feedback, I was monitoring the comments on Facebook to something EWTN posted. EWTN was rock solid, but the topic was a hot topic, and their comment box was filled with people who weighed in on the subject only to reprimand the USCCB.

My heart sank. It simply isn't right for us to bite the hand that feeds us (the Eucharist). It isn't right for us to reprimand the mouth that speaks the words of absolution. The gift of Apostolic Succession and Church Authority means that the position of authority over the shepherds is given to the Holy Father himself. Rarely - very rarely - God raises up an individual to speak words to the shepherds in order to rectify practices that are not consistent with Mother Church. That person is always holy and usually would rather die a thousand deaths than speak out.

And yet, it seems to me, that there are many Catholics - on both ends of the political spectrum - who believe it is their duty to rant against our shepherds.

After some twenty or thirty posts, another person entered the fray and stood up for our dear Bishops.

All of this makes me wonder about writing for Catholic venues. Is it right for me to raise questions about current events when the net result seems to be the airing of all angst against Church leaders?

I am wrestling with this right now and would be grateful for your prayers.

My one goal is - or should be - to inspire others to love our Lord Jesus Christ with all that they are and all that they have been given.

I did not come into the Church to tear Her down or weaken Her. She has given me the Body and Blood of Our Lord. She has offered the words of forgiveness to me in the quiet of a confessional.

I will not open the gates again for someone to bite the hand that feeds us the Body or reprimand the mouth that whispers to us the words of forgiveness.

I pray to the Lord.

Lord, hear my prayer.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Parish Mission to Remind Me That I Am Blessed Beyond Measure

Have I told you lately how wonderful it is to be Catholic? Have I described the joy of being able to go to Mass, to know - when the words happy are those who are called to this Table are said - that I am one of those blessed ones? Have I shared with you in recent days the joy of kneeling after receiving the Body and Blood of Our dear Lord Jesus?

Have I mentioned what it is like to hear the words of absolution falling from the lips of God's anointed one?

Tonight, at our parish mission, I remembered what it was like.


I have found the pearl of great price!

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Facebook Friend says it's Random Act of Kindness Day

I like the reminder. Let's face it . . . I need the reminder.

Today is a good day to do a random act of kindness. As Catholics, that's how it should be every day. That's how it should be on Fridays especially.


We forget our calling, at least I do. And that's why we need daily readings and meditation. That's why we need a Church calendar and daily Mass and a working knowledge of the lives of the saints.


That's why we need to remember to do a work of kindness - most especially on Fridays. Mother Church no longer requires us to observe no-meat Fridays, but She does call us to mark the day with some good work - or to stick with the tradition of setting aside meat.


So, today and every day - and most especially on Fridays - let us remember that we are His hands and feet.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Daffodil Bulbs Are Ugly Things

Have you ever noticed how ugly daffodil bulbs are? I planted about thirty yesterday. Every single one looked dried out and ready for the trash can. Even the root system looked like something I'd sweep into a dustpan. It's hard to believe that I will have any green shoots in the spring. It's even harder to believe that those green shoots will reach up to touch the sunlight of those first warm days of spring and unfold into little yellow cups and saucers.


There are days when I feel more like a daffodil bulb than a daffodil flower. There are days when my best efforts look like something God might sweep up with a broom and dustpan and toss in the trash.


But God is the ultimate gardener. He sees the potential in every life. He knows that, down deep inside, there is a flower just waiting to emerge. He knows that the attention He gives us now - on a cool November afternoon when the hours of daylight are dwindling - that attention will yield something beautiful when the Light of the Son touches us.


I'm ready to be a daffodil. I'm ready to break out of the bulb. I'm tired of being dormant. Of waiting.


But I am not in charge of timing. That's God's business. I am only called to submit to the Gardener's hands, to accept the soil that covers me and teaches me a lesson in humility and patience, and then to awaken with the first rays of springtime.


In that moment, it will be difficult to remember the cold of November, the bleak days of December, the relentless snows of January, and the lingering remnants of February's winter.


Then, God willing, I will flower.


All the potential that He has placed within me will be actualized. And my greatest hope, my deepest longing, that thing that drives me some days and quiets me other days, that one thing I long to do . . . to cause someone to pause as Wordsworth did and acknowledge the Creator through the simple gift of the created . . . that will happen! I leave you with Wordsworth's poem, one of my favorites.



I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
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Thanks for Prayers

The news this morning on my father-in-law is very good. It is amazing how much difference a day makes.

Thanks to prayers and the expertise of the medical community at Barnes Hospital, my husband's father is doing significantly better and we are all relieved.

Again, thanks for praying!
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Love Catholics!

We started the day with a volleyball game at St. Patricks. A few hours later, I realized I was missing my extra set of check blanks.

You know how it is. You see that you only have one or two checks left in the old book, and you know you're at least going to need that many, so you tuck the next book inside of the checkbook cover . . . just in case.

That's what I did. Only one problem - I lost the extra set. It slipped out of my purse somewhere.

I did the usual mental gymnastics to solve the mystery of the missing checks. Then, I remembered that my purse had fallen off the bleachers and landed upside down while we were watching our daughter's volleyball game.

We headed back to the parish gymnasium, but a thorough search yeilded nothing.

Great. We'll have to cancel the account. All automatic deposits will have to be changed. My mind reeled with the ramifications.

A woman who had helped me search the parish gym wished me well. I thanked her. "It's okay. I was just hoping I'd lost it here. I trust people here to call if they find it. I just hope I didn't lose it while shopping or at the restaurant."

She smiled and nodded knowingly. "Well, there's Saint Anthony. Say a prayer."

I had been so stressed out that I had forgotten Saint Anthony. I said a quick prayer. It wasn't even a sentence long. "St. Anthony, help me."

My husband picked me up at the gymnasium doors. I shook my head in frustration. "Nothing," I said as I opened the passenger door and climbed in.

A few minutes later, my husband stopped for gas. As he was pumping, I moved my seat back to gain more space. I decided to check under the seat, just one more time, and see if I had missed anything the previous two times I'd checked. I felt nothing.

I moved my hand back even further. I felt something, but it didn't feel thick enough or heavy enough to be the lost checks. I closed my fingers around it anyway and slid it from under the seat to take a look.

I couldn't believe it. Somehow, the silly thing had fallen out of my purse and not only slid under my seat. It had slid over a bump in the car floor and way to the back recesses of the floor under the front passenger seat.

I looked at the lost-but-now-found treasure. Saint Anthony, you have proved yourself the patron saint of lost things more often than I can remember. Why do I forget to ask for help?

I settled back in my seat and thought of the woman who had reminded me of St. Anthony. We Catholics need each other. We need to help one another remember where we can go for help.

I not only love being Catholic, I love the Catholics who help me remember how to be Catholic when it matters most.

And I love finding lost things!

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A Prayer Request

Please say a prayer for my father-in-law. He has undergone 8 months of treatments for lymphoma, and now he's in the hospital with dehydration and a number of other indicators that he may have an illness on top of everything else.

Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother . . . we pray to the Lord.

Lord, hear our prayer.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

We're On Facebook - join us!


To join the Catholic by Grace group on Facebook, log on and Click on the APPLICATIONS icon. Select GROUP from the menu and enter "Catholic by Grace" in the search box. Invite Facebook friends who are Catholic to join as well.

See you on Facebook!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wisdom from St. Francis of Assisi when life seems out of order

My house is a mess. That's what happens when the mom is sick for about a week. I'm running out of everything in the refrigerator. Most meals are freezer-fast-food. Turn on the oven. Pop food in. Dinner's ready in fifteen minutes.

Usually, this kind of disorder makes me crazy. I'm still feeling just sick enough that I don't care about what I can't do. I'm just doing what I can.

I need to take this as a spiritual lesson. The world is completely out of order. If I think about it too much, it makes me a little crazy. I simply cannot fix it. I am limited by my own weakness and humanity and sin.

I need to focus on what I can do. I can write a blog posting. I can send an email. I can say a prayer. I can offer up this rotten-relentless-illness for someone else. I can renew my determination to be constant in my faithfulness to this journey toward sanctification.

I can do only those things God gives me grace to do.


Two Bits of Wisdom by St. Francis of Assisi:


Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.


Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Take Five

Do you like contemplative prayer? I do. I've been reading about it lately (I tend to do that in stops and starts) and I learned a few new things. Here they are:

1. Stop worrying about what you feel during contemplative prayer. You won't always feel like you have been lifted to higher realms. The real test of how contemplative prayer is going has far more to do with the changes you see when you aren't praying. Are you becoming more holy? Are you at least wanting to become more holy?


2. If you don't already do it, have a word of welcome . . . a way to say, Lord, you are welcome in this place (that is, your soul). Find a place that's quiet, get comfortable, and invite God to come to you. I say Come, Holy Spirit.


3. When the busy thoughts of life start bothering you, simply set them aside one-by-one. If it helps, imagine that you are putting them in a box and as you close the lid, the volume goes down until you don't hear anything.


Remember, silence is God's first language . . . so go and speak His language.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blessed Feast of Pope St. Leo the Great


He constantly strove to keep the faith whole and strenuously defended the unity of the Church.

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St. Augustine and Unity of Faith

My son sent me an email through Facebook today. He wants my husband and me to read a three page response he's written on our Catholic understanding of the place of good works in our journey to salvation.

He's worried that, if we have our theology off just a bit, we might veer off enough to end up in hell. While he used the word hell, I have paraphrased the rest of it. I don't think he realizes that I do, as a matter of fact, think about hell more than I used to when I thought I had a sure place in heaven. He's the one who doesn't worry about hell anymore . . . at least not for himself. He knows where he's going when he dies. And he likes to share that news with pretty much anyone who will listen.

I can't blame him for being worried about us . . . or confused, for that matter. He was born into a Presbyterian family. Then we tried non-denominationalism. His dad was "saved" and went to seminary to be a Presbyterian pastor. His father student pastored a Congregational parish. Then, instead of going into pastoral ministry, his dad left ministry all together. That lasted about a year or so. We moved our membership to the United Methodist Church. His dad re-entered seminary, this time to become a United Methodist minister. We divorced. I became Presbyterian again. His dad served a few years in the United Methodist Church, dabbled at youth work, left ministry all together and remarried a few more times. I met and married my husband. We became Baptist. My father passed away and I began a journey into the Catholic Church.

Nobody should be exposed to that much uncertainty about doctrine and dogma.

And now that I'm grounded in the Faith, he is sure that I am as mixed-up as I have ever been.
Continue to work for unity. The stranger you reach out to may be someone's husband or brother or son. The woman you meet at the game and engage in small talk, she may be someone's wife, or sister, or daughter. Share the faith. Work for unity.

"There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church." -St. Augustine

St. Augustine was right.

Our hearts cry out for unity. Father, make us one.

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She gave out of her poverty. . .

My daughter had choir practice before school started this morning. They are preparing for the Veteran's celebration tomorrow.
So, I got up about an hour earlier than usual and drove her to school. On the way home, I saw the sign in front of the Lutheran church. She gave out of her poverty . . . that is what it said.

For a split-second, I thought of Mary. And then I remembered the story. Jesus uses these words to describe a widow who gives everything she has to the collection. To the undiscerning eye, it looks like a pittance. But, to Jesus, it is a treasure of great worth because this woman gave all that she had.

I realized that my train of thought probably mimicked that of Our Lord. Is there any way He saw a woman - a widow - who gave everything she had though the world saw nothing significant about the gift . . . and He didn't think of His own mother?

No. He must have seen the similarities. As Church Tradition teaches, His mother was a widow by then. As Sacred Scripture teaches, she gave all that she had to give. As her own words tell us in her canticle, "He has looked with favour on His lowly servant."

And I realized that every good and holy thing that can be said of any woman in Sacred Scripture can also be said of Our Lady.

She gave out of her poverty.
She was faithful.
She trusted completely that God would save her.
She put her life on the line.
She loved to the point of death.
She gave up her most treasured possession.
She stood in the gap for others.
She remained strong when even the men ran in fear.

In these statements, we see Hannah and Judith and Deborah and the widow and Queen Esther. We see Ruth and Rahab. The real question is this: women of God, do we see ourselves here?

Of course, Our Lord thought of His mother when He saw the widow's offering. Does He think of His mother when He looks at me?

The good son always looks for a girl that reminds him of his mother . . . if his mother merits emulation. And Mary certainly does.

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