Tuesday, November 30, 2010

May I Have This Dance?

I have a cousin who posted the first half of this metaphor on Facebook. I took her metaphor and ran with it, adding the comment on grace, mercy and love. Maybe you will find this little metaphor helpful.

Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future; faith is the courage to dance to it today.

Grace is the strength of God to get up and dance when you'd rather not. Mercy is God's response when we step on His toes over & over again.

Love is what keeps His arms around us throughout the dance. And love is what makes us want to bring another lonely soul to the dance floor and introduce this dear one to THE DANCE as well.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When the Manuscript (and the olive branch) Are Rejected

So much of life is about picking one's self up and trying again. And again. And yet again.

The manuscript came back today. The "looks good" from the publisher (which I received back in August) changed to "well, maybe we can rework it and use it" (that word came in October) and then today "sorry, we have decided to pass on this."

I'm not sure how many manuscript rejections I have received over the years. I think two or three hundred would be a safe bet.

But God has used the writing. While I had book writing in mind, God had newspaper commentary in mind.

Okay, God. That's okay. All for the greater glory of God.

We pick ourselves up. Learn as we go along.

Relationships are like that too. They are hard work. Sometimes, we're tempted to quit trying. To write someone off. Gosh, it's just too painful, this trying and failing and trying again.

But that is the story of Thanksgiving. God blesses our efforts. Sometimes, it's our two-hundredth manuscript submission that gets blessed. That three-hundredth time we pick up the phone and try to reach out and reconcile with someone dear to us - that's when there is a break through and the sweet, sweet wind of reconciliation begins to blow through us.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family. But there is one person - one relationship - that God has restored to me. Details aren't important. It is enough to say that God does bless our efforts toward reconciliation.

Even if it takes a hundred olive branches. And it is sweet. So very good.

Peace of Christ be yours, now and forever.


Monday, November 22, 2010

What to Give on St. Nicholas Day???

I just ordered my grandson's first present for St. Nick Day. On the evening of Dec. 5th, when he goes to sleep, his mommy will put his shoes out for St. Nick to fill. But this present won't fit inside the shoes of a one-year-old little boy. But I don't care. It is the best, coolest St. Nick present I could think of. I LOVE being a Catholic grandma!

Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set


Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's a Saturday in Ordinary Time

On Saturdays in Ordinary Time when there is no obligatory memorial, an optional memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary is allowed.

My Two Cents:
I'm a mother of four children ranging in ages from 12 to 27. When one of my children needs something, I would move heaven and earth, if I could, to help them. When their hearts are heavy, my heart is heavy. When they acheive something they have worked hard to acheive, I rejoice with them.

When they turn toward me, my heart expands, my eyes fill with tears, and I am ready to listen.

I love them with a mother's heart.

I know that I am not a perfect mother. But I know a mother who is perfect. She is the mother of the Redeemer. And she is the mother of the redeemed as well.

When we need something, she turns to her Son who can move heaven and earth to help us.

When our hearts are heavy, her heart is heavy, too.

When we acheive something that God has created us to acheive, she rejoices with us.

When we turn toward her, her Immaculate Heart expands, her eyes fill with tears, and she is ready to listen.

She loves us with a mother's heart.

Do you have something you want to share with your Mother?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Four Gospel Writers in Revelations

Marcus Grodi, Founder and President of the Coming Home Network, Intl. and host of EWTN's Journey Home, says there are verses in the Bible he never really saw as a Protestant. When he became Catholic, these verses broke through and the full truth of the Catholic faith began to make sense to him

At Mass today, I had one of those "aha" moments. I have seen the artists' renderings of the Gospel writers many times. You can't study at a liberal arts college and escape fine arts class. The four Gospel writers were there in artwork, and now I see them in stained-glass windows. But I never realized that the metaphorical renderings were straight out of the Bible - until today. And as I listened to the reading, I could almost see what is happening in heaven when we stand and sing the Alleluia, when we form a cross on our brow, our lips, our heart as a promise to keep the Gospel in our minds, on our lips, and burning in our hearts.

When we stand and hear the Gospel story, heaven hears and joins in the eternal song.

This from today's Mass reading (note the underlined section).

Revelations 4:1-11
In my vision, I, John, saw a door open in heaven and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying, ‘Come up here: I will show you what is to come in the future.’ With that, the Spirit possessed me and I saw a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne, and the Person sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne, and this looked like an emerald. Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them I saw twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads. Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and the sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne there were seven flaming lamps burning, the seven Spirits of God. Between the throne and myself was a sea that seemed to be made of glass, like crystal. In the center, grouped round the throne itself, were four animals with many eyes, in front and behind. The first animal was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third animal had a human face, and the fourth animal was like a flying eagle. Each of the four animals had six wings and had eyes all the way round as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing:

‘Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty;
he was, he is and he is to come.’

Every time the animals glorified and honored and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying, ‘You are our Lord and our God, you are worthy of glory and honor and power, because you made all the universe and it was only by your will that everything was made and exists.’

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Faith of One Catholic Man

If you are quiet, if you are very still and yet listening, you can learn from cradle Catholics.

He sat behind me at Mass this morning. I exchanged the Sign of Peace with him, but I did not realize what this day meant to him.

After Mass, I kneeled and prayed, and as I prayed, I heard their quiet conversation in the row behind me. The conversation would take my prayers in another direction.

Someone is dying. Someone this man loves very dearly. Maybe his son. The dying one has just two weeks... he wants to be buried in the parish cemetery.

And the woman speaking with the older man said she would be praying.

My prayers changed in that moment. God was asking me to intercede. As I looked at the Lord, up there on the Altar, the man walked forward and bowed. He stepped into the doorway of a side room where Father was removing his vestments and preparing for next things.

A woman behind me said the dying one is young . . . will be leaving behind four children.

The faith of these cradle Catholics hits me hard sometimes. It is a faith that is not easily explained. It is almost always as quiet and deep and difficult as this man's faith. A faith that abides all. A faith that calls a dad to morning Mass on a Tuesday morning so that there will be enough grace to speak to one's priest about burying one's son. A faith that yields grace as the man walks each step from the Adoration Chapel to the church offices, some fifty or a hundred steps away, in view of the cemetery where Jesus hangs on the cross and Our Lady of Grace stands nearby. In view of a cemetery where his son will rest - in a few days' time. In view of a cemetery where this dad will rest as well. One day. But not this day. This day is the kind of day where gold is tested by fire. Where faith is all that remains. A faith that sustains a dad as he enters the parish doors and once again tells the story of a dying loved one and asks what must be done to prepare for that most difficult day, a day that is more difficult than one's own death.

Amazing strength. Amazing grace.

This is what it means to be Catholic.

Monday, November 15, 2010

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No Fail Divinity

Soon, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. So, today, I decided to make divinity and meditate on this Feast Day.

I chose a recipe called No-Fail Divinity - because I've never attempted to make this home-spun candy. I wanted to ensure success. Well, it is possible to fail at No-Fail Divinity. I've proven that in my own kitchen.

The mess is salvageable, though. It yielded the tastiest marshmallow creme.

So often, my efforts to say yes to the Divine One end in a bit of a mess. I realize that I did something wrong. Didn't quite carry the thing out as written. But even when I try to say yes to God, though I might make mistakes along the way, good things happen.

Sure, we don't have bragging rights, but is that really so bad?

God does not promise that we won't fail. He knows we will fail sometimes. Thank God for divine mercy when we do fail.

For He can turn our mistakes into something beautiful. It might not be what we expected. It might not even be what we were hoping for.

But that's okay.

Give God your successes AND your failures.

This afternoon, I think I'll have some hot chocolate with a dollop of homemade marshmallow creme. And I'll ponder the Divine Christ, Our King, who loves me and gives me little jobs to do even though I sometimes mess up.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Preparing our hearts for Thankgiving and Advent

This evening, I received an email from St. Francis Mission, a ministry of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) among the 20,000 Lakota (Sioux) people on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota.

Occasionally, groups will write and request a shout-out. This time, I felt the Spirit prompting me to go ahead and post this. We are headed into the Advent season. Soon, we will be giving to many charitable groups. I encourage you to give with a generous heart. We are living in difficult economic times. Let us agree with one another to keep our hearts (and pocketbooks) open to God's gentle call.

As we wait for the Messiah, let us begin by seeing the Lord in those around us.

May God bless the Lakota and the St. Francis Mission. And may God bless all who give and receive this Thanksgiving and Advent.

For more information on this ministry, go to http://www.sfmission.org/

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Someone From Nazareth

A couple of times each day, I click on my Live Feed to see where visitors are from and what postings they are reading. I say a prayer for you, dear visitors. I know that I am not merely collecting CLICKS. You are people with real souls. And I take the responsibility of Catholic writing (and yes, even blog writing) very seriously. You matter to God. And you matter to me.

A few minutes ago, someone visited from Nazareth, Israel. I had to smile. I'm here, writing this to you, because of Jesus of Nazareth. Welcome, dear one. I'm glad you stopped by for a visit.

And I am glad for every visitor, no matter where you are from. I'm interested in knowing what you are reading, I'm curious about where you live, and I intercede for you when I see that you have stopped by for a visit.

God bless all of you, no matter where you are from. You are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Go and share that Good News with someone else today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Two Cents

If you share the Gospel joyfully & with simplicity, some will perceive you as simple minded. Share the Good News with childlike joy anyway.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Day After (Women of Grace)

I managed to make it to Mass today, and then I came home and did a little around the house. It seemed a blessing to have these familiar chores. They brought me back to the quiet of my life and the rhythm of our family. It seems like a microcosm of the liturgical calendar which takes us to high points in the journey of faith, and also returns us to the ordinary days of Ordinary Time.

The time at EWTN was a great joy. None of my worries materialized. I had a voice, no laryngitis. I wasn't ill. I made my connecting flights. I wasn't perfect during the taping (tough to know when to keep speaking and when Johnnette needs to go to break, etc), but the Holy Spirit was there.

Mother Angelica has talked often about the Child Jesus, and I think that I was sensing that childlike faith...the joy of being a child in Christ. During Sharon's taping (another guest whose show I was able to watch prior to my own), I was struck by all the pain she has been through, and then, I considered my own journey, one of little pain - mostly joy. Joy pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Joy filled me in those few fleeting moments before my turn. And I let the joy flow. Like a child.

Before Sharon's taping, Johnnette had us pray the Prayer to St. Michael. I quietly prayed in the wings. Shortly after that, they prepared for their cue, and I remained in prayer quietly - in the shadows behind the cameras. I felt peace come over me. A quiet of such completeness that nothing else remained. While I had not felt disquiet prior to that, I still was encountering and perceiving everything through the earthly senses. Discovery. Newness. Curiosity. They came and hit my senses, and they remained in that surface place. Even the minor worries (making flights, getting my clothes unwrinkled) were there only in surface ways and not really disturbing...

But this quiet went beyond all, and I wanted it to stay. But it didn't. It came and went in probably thirty seconds. And then the joy came flooding.

Johnnette asked me questions about writing and evangelization. She asked for an example of something I might blog about, and I retold the story of the ugly daffodils. And I knew that the Holy Spirit had dug down into my soul and retrieved the right gift from the many He has given, lifting it out and leaving a trail of joy behind Him.

And I was overcome again with the sense that others were interceding for me in high places...

I must go and I think I probably have forgotten some very important things. If they come to me, I may return through the week and share them. I would ask that you now pray that I can avoid the trap of reliving the what I said, what she said, how it was said, how it might be received... and all of that. God knows what must be done, and I need to turn things to Him with thanksgiving now. Just as there are traps for us as we go into these moments of evangelization, there are traps on the other side. I'm seeing that it is not to go numbly through the adventure of New Evangelization, but neither is it a time to give ourselves over to the voices in our head that seek to clutter it up rather than let Our Lord reign.

Thank you to all who prayed for me. I ask for you to remember me in December as I travel to the Journey Home and share the full story of my journey home to the Catholic Church.



November Catholic By Grace Article


One day during a childhood summer vacation, a friend invited me to pass the day with her on their Iowa farm. Her mother was a member of my dad's congregation (Presbyterian), and while I was there, I joined her family at the table for a meal. My friend's mom stated quite adamantly that she didn't think she needed to go to church on Sunday. “You can worship God anywhere . . . just go outside and see the beauty all around. You can worship God without church,” she stated her position flatly and then asked me what I thought about that.

I remember feeling uncomfortable. I’d lost my appetite. I had the distinct feeling that she had targeted me for a couple of reasons. I was young enough that I wasn't prepared to refute her argument. And, as the preacher's daughter, if I couldn't "win" the argument, then she could walk away justified in skipping church.

All I could come up with was a lame defense of my dad’s sermons. I always thought they were pretty good. Obviously, other people didn’t like them as much as I did. What else could I use to defend church attendance? She could turn a radio on and get some Christian music. She could read the Bible at home. I felt the burden of proof on my end, and it seemed like I didn’t have much to work with.

What I would have given to be able to pull out a quote by St. John Chrysostom about then. "You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priests” (CCC 2179).

Okay, so we didn’t have priests, but the rest of it would have sounded great.

As a Catholic, it is much easier to support the requirement of Mass attendance. We don't subscribe to a simplistic Jesus-and-me faith, for starters. We know that our faith is ecclesial and universal. We believe in unity and communion with one another. The prayers we pray, the Scriptures we read at Mass, they are the same the world over. We are quite literally all on the same page. Catholics in every country, regardless of language and culture, are united in word and praise and prayer. We are one.

But we also believe in Communion - union - with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Again, we have a reason to go to Mass that many Protestants cannot understand. They don't have Communion every Sunday, and most think Holy Communion is merely a symbol. One might even be able to replicate the Protestant kind of Communion at the dining room table. We know that the Liturgy of the Eucharist requires God's ordained priest, and that the priest has been given the special grace, an indelible mark, to pray the prayer of Consecration and bring to us the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

One might disregard Sunday Mass obligation (though it is a serious sin and a desire to be obedient to God should draw us to the Mass even if we can think of no other reason to go), but the greater question is why would you want to skip Mass? What do I get out of Mass? We receive Jesus Christ! The Eucharist changes us. Renews and perfects us. With the entire people that Christ has claimed as His own, I can pray the Mass . . . and then be sent out as one who is changed and changing.

Besides, the world is waiting for me once Mass is over. I can always go into that beautiful world and continue to praise Him after the final amen. Strangely enough, not only is the world waiting for me to bring the song of praise to it following Mass, but the world itself seems more beautiful and the song inside of me more demanding than ever after I pray the Holy Mass with the faithful.

Just because I can worship God anywhere, that isn't a case for missing the greatest gift we have been given. Our Lord's gift of Himself. It is a case for worshipping as one and then taking that gift into the world.

I have the joy, joy, joy, joy...down in my soul...

Fr. Silvia and Johnnette Benkovic
Nov. 8 taping of Women of Grace

Fr. Silvia


Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Made It To EWTN

I'm here safe and sound. The plan is to get up early and make it to 7:00 AM Mass. After breakfast, it's off to the gift shop. Taping will begin at 2:00. I met two other Women of Grace guests this evening, and we all swapped stories. We talked non-stop from the airport to EWTN. All three of us felt like pinching ourselves. Is this really happening?

We are all part of a series called Bringing Them Home. My unique show-subtitle will be Blogging for Jesus. So, dear blogging friends, you are the first to know.

And I'm counting on your prayers.

Have a blessed night.


Friday, November 5, 2010

A YES to Evangelization and to Ecumenism

I'm flying to Alabama on Sunday for a taping of Women of Grace. The show is dedicated to "Bringing them Home" - and I cherish your prayers. I leave you with one of my favorite postings... Blessings.

Among my favorite memories of childhood is the memory of sitting at the dinner table and hearing my dad recite poetry. It was usually some dramatic monologue he’d memorized decades earlier while attending his beloved Burr Ridge country school near Hillsboro, Wisconsin. This command performance on the part of my father didn’t happen very often, but when it did, my sister and I would listen with total fascination as the words to “The Highwayman” or “Charge of the Light Brigade” tumbled from our father’s lips.

One of the last conversations I had with my dad was about a poem, only Dad wasn’t trying to entertain me that November afternoon. That day, the poem served as an object lesson. “Do you remember ‘Mending Wall’?” he asked. I said that I did.

As I sat beside his hospital bed, he quoted a few lines, Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun, And makes gaps even two can pass abreast . . .

After a long pause, he told me to be the kind of person who tears down walls. It was a strange thing for him to say, considering we had been discussing something totally unrelated in the preceding minutes. I suppose everyone reflects on peculiar conversations like that after a loved one dies. I did, anyway.

Tear down walls. That’s a tough one. Our world is founded on dividing lines. They separate everything from countries to counties. They define what’s mine from what’s yours.

One of the things that delighted me when I became Catholic was that the Church has one deposit of faith, one common ground that is terra firma. Do you have a question on faith and morals? There is a place you can go for trustworthy answers speaking with one voice.

I was never a zealous Protestant (even though I was the daughter of a minister). Something has changed now. I believe the fullness of faith is found in the Catholic Church. And I can't keep quiet about it.

After my father’s death, I took some time to think seriously about Frost’s poem. I thought about how the speaker disagreed with his neighbor who thought fences were a good idea. The speaker casually asks his neighbor why good fences make good neighbors. Shouldn’t we just let the wall fall down? It seems inclined to do it anyway. Just look at all the rocks on the ground. Even nature seems to say fences don’t make good neighbors. But the neighbor just keeps on stacking the rocks on the dividing wall.

Jesus would probably agree with the speaker. Father make them one, as you and I are One. And I pray for those who will come after them. Make them one, so that the world will know that you have sent the Son. That was the Master’s prayer the night He was betrayed (John 17).

I read a portion on ecumenism from Vatican Council II documents the other day, and I had this feeling that, if I could just master what the authors of those documents had to say on this subject, I would have the key to this whole thing. I would know how to defend my faith and simultaneously tear down the wall that divides the Christian world. It sounds like a paradox, and maybe it is. Much of theology sounds paradoxical, too. Death into life. Son of God; Son of Man. The King of Kings born in a stable. A young virgin becomes the Mother of God.

The lesson I need to learn is really a lesson of the heart. Like all theological paradoxes, the key has everything to do with love and very little to do with persuasive argument.

It is a lesson that has come slowly. I'm better at it than I used to be, but not yet what I should be.

And yet, it is the key to synthesizing Ecumenism and Evangelization. As Catholics, we do not give a yes to one and a no to the other. We give a yes and a yes.

God bless you as you work to tear down the wall.