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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Monday, November 9, 2009

Busy Sending the Advent Article

Good morning, friends!

I'm spending the day sending the Advent Catholic by Grace article to diocesan papers. The Diocese of Springfield (Illinois) will be running the Advent column during December. This is a special joy as it will be the first time the Catholic Times has run the column - and this paper will be our 32 diocesan publication!


See you after my work is completed . . .


Denise

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Broken Internal Thermostats

For the past two or three days, my husband and I have both been "under the weather". Whatever this illness is, it has us both alternating between feeling hot and cold. Neither of us is perfectly healthy, so there is no adult in the house who has a true sense of what the thermostat should be set on.
Old Thermostat
by Shari Weinsheimer
publicdomainpictures.net

One of us will turn on the heat (due to a case of the chills) and the other will come along and flip the thermostat to AC (because the house suddenly feels really hot). Then, our bodies will reset, and we'll each be dashing down the hallway to reverse our previous thermostat settings.

That is exactly how it is when Christians think they can go it alone, without Mother Church to set the standard.

If there is no deposit of the Faith, no true North Star, then we're all just out there deciding for ourselves what seems right. What is right to believe. What is right to do. What is right to teach others.

It is a recipe for chaos. The thermostat keeps getting changed. How are we saved? When are we saved? Can we lose salvation once we have it? If we are to go to the church with our disagreements and have those differences resolved by the church, what church should we go to? Some say one thing on the cultural issues of the day. Others say the complete opposite.

What if they are all suffering from a classic case of the flu? What if we can't really rely on anyone to KNOW anything for certain?

That third pillar of the Protestant Reformation - the one called personal interpretation - opens the gates and lets almost anything in.

Everyone puts complete trust in feelings. I think that verse means thus and so. You're crazy, it means this. And I can back it up. Look up this verse. See where it says this?
Right now, I feel chills. I need to turn on the heater. My husband thinks it's burning up in here. He's ready for the AC. Neither one of us is right.

The thermostat is set at 69 degrees. And we know, regardless of how it feels, that 69 degrees is just about perfect. We're the ones that are a little broken.

And that is how it is with the deposit of Faith.

Private interpretation cannot be trusted. The Church that is over 2000 years old can be trusted. The Church that goes back to Jesus and St. Peter and the Rock and the Keys - Her dial is set exactly right.

If something else seems to be the real deal, you might just have something out of whack with your personal thermostat.

There are over 33,000 denominations (and counting). They all teach something different even though Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead the Church into perfect Truth.

What is your thermostat set on?

Mine is set on Mother Church.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Can You Hear the Applause of Heaven? The TAC Anglicans are saying yes to unity and to the Holy Father's invitation!

Nov. 6, LONDON (Catholic Online) - Damien Thompson reported on Thursday in the UK Telegraph that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) members in the United Kingdom have formally passed a resolution accepting the invitation from the Holy See to pursue full communion through the establishment of a Personal Ordinariate. It is expected that the Apostolic Constitution setting forth the process will be released in days.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blessed Feast of St. Charles Borromeo (1538 - 1584)

St. Charles Borromeo
by Orazio Borgianni (1574-1616)
Today's saint was the second son in his family. As was the tradition of the time, that meant that Charles would go into the priesthood. When his older brother died, leaving Charles head of the family, everyone thought he would leave religious life. His brother's death only solidified something Charles already knew. Life is fleeting. It is folly to pursue the things of this world when eternity is around the corner . . . and eternity lasts forever.

But the thing that stands out about this saint's story is that he was a prime mover in the Catholic Reformation.

It underscores something the Catholic laity knows. Something that we conveniently forget when emotions are high.

God loves His Church and He always sends someone to clean up the House - when things are out of order. And, that person is rarely a member of the laity. That person is almost always a member of the clergy and quite often a Bishop or a Pope.

American Catholics forget this. As Americans, we are used to speaking against the establishment. When we see something that isn't right, we grab a bull horn and announce it to the world. We hold rallies and tea parties and marches (which is necessary in a democracy), but it does not serve the Church very well when the laity speaks out against the Church and Church Authority (this is not to be confused with our duty to be salt and light in the public square - that is a different thing altogether).

We are called to pray that God will raise up someone like St. Charles Borromeo and put him in a key position to protect the Truth and reorder the practice of the Faith so that it is a true application of Church Teaching.

And then, we are called to go into the fields and work.

Yes, there are times when Church reform is necessary. As American Catholics, we are well aware of the scandals. We may want to make a major ruckus and think it is right for us to speak our mind to any and all. But we need to remember . . .

God loves His Church. He always raises up a champion for the Faith. But it's usually someone like St. Charles Borromeo. It's usually a Bishop. Or a Pope. Or a Priest.

It's rarely a member of the laity. And even then, it is almost always a humble saint who would prefer almost any other job.

So, save your "ruckus" for the town square and the cultural issues of the day. Mother Church deserves your prayers, not your grievances.

St. Charles Borromeo, pray for those who have been called to lead the Church, that they will not be afraid to lift high the Cross of Christ, to lead the Bride of Christ, and to proclaim the Teaching of Christ. Amen.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Not Even Advent . . . for heaven's sake!

Well, they waited until after All Saints and All Souls, but the commercialism of Our Lord's birth has begun.


I saw my first Christmas commercial today.


And Advent hasn't even started yet.


Good things come to those who wait . . .
Enjoy Ordinary Time a little longer.

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Blessed Feast of St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639)

Saint Martin de Porres

(Universalis) He was born in Lima in Peru, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a black ex-slave. His mother gave him a Christian education and he became a pharmacist and a nurse. Despite his father’s opposition he entered the Dominican Order as a lay brother in 1603 and spent his life working for the sick and the poor. Many people of all ranks would come to him for advice. He had a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He has been named as a patron saint of those of mixed race.


I remember receiving a sympathy card from my mother-in-law's brother. My father had just died and I was overcome by grief. That grief would eventually propel me into the journey toward the Catholic Church, but in the days and weeks that followed Dad's death, I couldn't lift my head to see anything good on the horizon.


When the sympathy card came, I looked at it and thought it was odd, one of those very Catholic-looking things. An artist's rendering of a man who lived a few hundred years ago. A name that was quite strange. A story on the back of the card that talked of a Catholic man's holiness, including the gift of levitation during prayer. No one on my side of the family would ever send a card like that - or even buy one, for that matter.


For some reason, that very-Catholic-card stayed in my memory, even after I put it away with the other sympathy cards.


I don't know when it happened and I don't know how it happened, but somewhere along the way, those icons and artist's renderings and old photos of long-dead saints have become a path to my Lord. I treasure their stories. Their lives speak to me, regardless of how different their cultures were from my own. Regardless of how long ago they lived.


And their stories come at just the right moment. Something about their journey will resonate with me in one season of life, and a completely different aspect of their lives will speak to me in another season of life.


And so it is with St. Martin de Porres.


He came to me in January of 2004, to comfort me in grief.


Today, he comes to me in a season of joy. Like St. Martin de Porres, my grandson will be of mixed race. My first grandchild will come sometime in the next few weeks. And he already has a patron saint on his side.


St. Martin, patron saint of those of mixed races.


I pray that my grandson will learn to love God and serve God. I pray that he will find his ultimate calling and purpose in the Lord, like his patron saint.


St. Martin de Porres, pray for us!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Stand With Our Bishops: Healthcare Reform Imperatives

"Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation" - Bishop William F. Murphy

Everything you need to know - http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/
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November Catholic By Grace Article

There were times in my early adult life when I was poor. Poor enough that I was on food stamps and Medicaid.

Back then, I was so ashamed of my poverty that I drove a full hour from home to buy groceries just so I wouldn’t be recognized by anyone in my father’s congregation. I deliberately sought medical care some distance away so that I wouldn’t run into students that knew me as a substitute teacher. I didn’t want anyone to see me pull out a Medicaid card when the office secretary asked for an insurance card.

I remember how hard it was to admit all of this to my fiancĂ© when we were dating. John is from a family that believes in pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps. They sit around the kitchen table and reminisce about his grandparents. They remember how his grandmother instructed each grandchild about how many squares of toilet tissue to use. How she kept track of every dime in a ledger. How her frugality enabled them to acquire multiple rental properties in just a few decades after arriving here from Germany in the 1940s. They made do with what they had. They didn’t receive government help – ever.

What would they have thought of me as a young mother with my basket of food and an envelope of color-coded food stamps? I remember how I used to fumble through the envelope, counting out the right amount. How the heat would rise up my neck and go into my face as I mumbled here to the cashier. How I would want to be almost anywhere else when she would recount the stack of food stamps in front of me, just to be sure.

Or the night in the emergency room when my daughter fell and needed stitches. Or when my son was born and the Medicaid stopped because I was a full-time student and the state began considering grants and school loans as income. How thankful I was when a charity at the local hospital paid the bill in full. How ironic it seemed - like the Holy Family - my son was born just minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve, born to parents who had almost nothing.

Yes, I had been poor. And it was a memory I wanted to forget. I thought I would be able to bury the memories – if I told my fiancĂ© about it and he said it didn’t matter to him. John didn’t care at all. He even laughed when I finished speaking. “That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Besides, look how far you’ve come.”

That was true. I had gone on to finish my bachelor degree, to work as a teacher, to complete graduate school, to pay off every school loan. We married and bought a house. Sold it. Built another. We bought new cars. Went on nice vacations.

But the memory didn’t go away. I think this is a memory I’m not supposed to forget. I think I’m meant to bring it with me every time I go to the grocery store.

Every time I stand in the detergent aisle and I remember that laundry detergent wasn’t covered – and I pick up an extra bottle for the St. Vincent de Paul Center. . .

Every time I buy feminine products for a household of daughters and I remember that feminine hygiene products weren’t covered – and I buy extra for a woman I will never meet. . .

Every time I buy diapers and I remember rinsing out cloth diapers because I couldn’t afford disposables – and I pick up an extra box for someone else’s child or grandchild. . .

Every time I have to buy over-the-counter items at the drug store, and I remember how every dollar that went to baby Tylenol was one less dollar for something else. . .

In the Book of Deuteronomy, God says, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and decrees which I proclaim in your hearing this day.” God tells the people how to treat each other, and then he reminds them, “For remember that you too were once slaves in Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm.”

I need to remember what it was like to be poor and to remember that God brought me out of poverty. In my season of plenty, I need to let the memory propel me along this journey to sainthood.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Did You Forget That It's Daylight Savings Time? We did.

We're sitting at home, waiting for Mass.
We woke up, got ready, drove to the church, and for a second or two, we couldn't figure out why the parking lot was full.

My husband and I looked at each other at exactly the same moment and groaned, "Day Light Savings!"

We both felt silly. But we also felt a little sad. My daughter was scheduled to serve at 9:30 Mass, and my husband was scheduled to be an usher.

We thought we had let God down. We thought that the clocks had jumped ahead (like they do in the Spring).

And then, John said, "Hey, wait. That doesn't mean we missed 9:30 Mass! This is the 7:30 Mass getting out. It's really 8:15!"

We might have been really bummed about missing out on that extra hour of sleep, but we were all just glad that we hadn't missed the chance to serve.

So now, we're home, waiting, and enjoying the gift of time.

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