Monday, February 28, 2011

Time to Collect Favorite Saints' Quotes! Please stop by and add yours to the comment box!

Here's one of my top ones:

"What does it profit you to give God one thing if He asks of you another? Consider what it is God wants, and then do it."  St. John of the Cross

Grace of Grandmothers

Grandma was old school.

She believed in memorizing Scripture. Her children knew more than 300 verses by heart. They entered - and won - their share of Bible quiz bowls.

So, when I spent one week of summer vacation with Grandma, she sent me to the guest room one day with a Bible. "Memorize the 23rd Psalm," she said.

I stretched out on the double bed and stared at the open Bible. I read the passage. Pretty. Kind of like poetry, I thought.

And it was beautiful. Today, however, it is far more beautiful to me.

The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing that I lack.

In green pastures, You let me graze... safe waters you lead me.

You restore my soul.

You guide me along the right path for the sake of Your name.

Even though I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm, for you are at my side; 

Your rod and staff give me courage.

You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil... cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

And I will dwell in the House of the Lord...

It's time we were all like those grace-filled grandmothers. Encourage your little ones to read and memorize Sacred Scripture... and help them to see the beauty of Jesus Christ and His Church! pass it on...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Day I Broke Mom's Dryer: and how that helped me to understand Indulgences

This is the second year in a row that I have been a Coming Home Network Helper. For two years, I've had the privilege of helping other women (from a similar faith heritage) to enter the Church. Both years, the women had the same questions. The questions came at about the same point in their journeys, too.

First, grace showed up, in an almost infused way, to lead them to an understanding of Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. And they wanted to run, full-tilt ahead, straight to Him.

Second, they hit a wall with Mary. Things didn't come to a screeching halt, but they were afraid that it very well might. But they kept asking questions, demanding answers that quelled their fears, and then they regained a sense of rightness and order to even the teachings on Mother Mary.

But now, in this final lap to Lent and the weeks leading up to Holy Communion, the question that has come is always a question about Indulgences.

Maybe you are on the journey (or you know someone who is). Perhaps my answer will help you put the pieces together. You may click on the Facebook or Twitter Share-Button below the post if you'd like to share this with Facebook friends who might have doubts about Indulgences.

Indulgences 101

Yes, “Indulgences” is a tough one because we (former Protestants) have baggage. And that is all we were given with regard to Indulgences. There are two aspects to sin - forgiveness/reconciliation and the fulfillment of the temporal punishment attached to a specific sin. And yes, temporal punishment remains. Like when you broke something in anger as a child and your mother forgave you when you were sorry (which is like true contrition with the Sacrament of Confession), but there was still something more needed. Something more to make it right. The temporal part had to be addressed.

What we struggle with is the scandal of selling Indulgences - that baggage that sticks with us and lingers in the form of uneasiness. Somehow, cradle Catholics find it easier to see the good and true and right even as they recognize the part that was wrong (selling what should be offered without money and received in acts of love and devotion). Sometimes, the Church has had to reform practices that are not in keeping with what the Church teaches. And this is one of them. Selling Indulgences was a scandal, and it was not in keeping with Church teaching -- in fact, it scandalized the true teachings of the Church (and scandal always brings harm to the Body of Christ and the Unity of the Church). As an aside, that should be a lesson to all of us to never bring scandal to Mother Church. We must strive in all things and in all ways to share the true teachings. It should also give us joy to know that God will never let the gates of hell prevail - even in scandal - and that Mother Church will make it through every storm. Okay, back to the topic.

Indulgences (as something the Church offers to us for the remission of temporal punishment) is a blessed opportunity. It is usually offered to the Faithful as an opportunity to embrace acts of love and devotion - things that build up the Kingdom of God through prayer and pilgrimages and the special and unique "yes" that we give to Mother Church and Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As with all things Catholic, there is order and rhyme to this teaching. And the venues for Indulgences are rightly ordered too. Here's the thing. You don't have to say yes to a single Indulgence. You are given the choice. It is not required, though the temporal payment for sin will one day be required, and Our Lord will provide you with a way, even if it is during that preparation when all that remains is purged (purgatory) so that you can stand before a Living and Holy God and not be destroyed upon seeing Him face-to-face.
For we know, only the righteous will see God.

But the Church is offering the Faithful venues for love and devotion, special ways to seek remission for what remains.

When I was a child, my mother asked me to go downstairs and move the clean laundry from the washing machine and put it into the dryer. I didn't want to do it. I was angry because she had interrupted my free time. I went downstairs and moved the laundry and I slammed the dryer door so hard (in anger) that a piece of the latch broke off. I took that broken part up and had to tell Mom what I had done. She forgave me. But she said that I still had to
hand her the replacement part. I remember that all was righted (though I was already forgiven) when I paid for the part and gave the new part to Mom. Strange how this fits, isn't it? Even the allowance which I used to buy the part came from Mom. She simply gave me the idea, the venue, for making amends.

And that is how it is with Indulgences. She (Mother Church) gives us the opportunity to say yes to an Indulgence, and we can give it back in the form of love and devotion -- so that all will be made right regarding the temporal aspect of our sin. I know it isn't a perfect metaphor, but I was still forgiven by Mom; I still had a place at the table; I still had a home in my parents' home. But something more was required for all to be set aside.

And we, though forgiven, still have a place at the Table (Eucharist) and a home in the Home.

*Dr. Scott Hahn tells a similar story about making things right after he sought forgiveness for stealing records (many years after the sin of stealing occurred). Scott went to the store and paid for the records - in full. He was already forgiven by God, but justice required something of him, something more, something to heal the wound he'd caused to another. For me, it was a dryer part. For Scott, it was the price tag on a stack of records. The perfect King of Mercy is also the Perfect King of Justice. Forgiveness is ours for the asking. But with some sin, the temporal punishment remains undone. Every kid who's broken a window (and had to replace it) kind of "gets" Indulgences. Everyone who has been wounded by another in a deep, deep way understands that justice demands something more. We leave that part in the hands of God - the One who is Perfect Justice. On some level, we all "get it".


Saturday, February 26, 2011

David Wurst, Evangelical for 50 years

David wrote me this week - just to say thanks for sharing my conversion story on The Journey Home (you can find that show at the bottom of this blog...just click on the JH show below). David mentioned that he had been Evangelical for 50 years. His parish priest, Fr. Bill, interviewed him about a month ago for an audio/podcast for Fr. Bill's blog. I asked David if he might share that link with me. David sent the link. Good stuff. You haven't heard him out there yet, in the Catholic venues, but I wouldn't be surprised if his story is shared for larger and larger groups.

Here's Fr. Bill and David

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lazy Days, Crazy Days, and Ah-wonderful Days

(I'm reposting this because this week has been one of those busy weeks. I'm sure most of you know what I mean. Enough time to breathe. And that's about it. Even so... it's all good.)

“So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rainwater, beside the white chickens.” American poet William Carlos Williams wrote the poem. I happen to like it, but my husband just laughs and says, “That’s not a poem; it’s a sentence.”
John is right, of course; it is a sentence. I am right, too; it is definitely poetry. I guess I just like the simplicity. In my mind, I can see the wheelbarrow as it rests against the chicken coop, and the rain bathes the wheelbarrow like an agrarian version of blessed holy water.
To me, it is the ideal of poetry, which should contemplate life, human interaction, and the complexities of our existence, like a pale imitation of faith and the spiritual journey.
As a Christian, I am that red wheelbarrow, overused at times, underused at times, and sometimes used for fun and frolic. Many times, I feel like I am overworked by the Master. I want to cry out, “Can’t I just go back over there by the chicken coop and rest a bit? Lord, aren’t you driving me a bit too hard?”
Then, I sometimes feel abandoned. Like the wheelbarrow, I am propped up beside a chicken coop and left to wait and wait, as the rainwater drizzles down and the chickens peck at the ground. The dog days of summer or the harsh cold days of winter stretch out before me, and I long for Jesus to take me for a joyride, letting some small child climb aboard, feet dangling as she throws back her head in laughter, and the Master takes us both for a spin around the farm. I am happy to be used in this way. And the opportunities seem all too rare.
That is how it has been for me since my conversion. At times I am at rest – so much time to sit and reflect, time to contemplate God, my faith, and my purpose. But in those moments, I’ve often felt forgotten and even wondered if I would ever be used again for His service.
Other times, like now, I enter seasons in which I feel overworked – rushed about and pushed to the brink of my ability. I look back to the seasons of quiet contemplation, and I remember those days of rest with longing.
When I am most exhausted by seasons of active labor or feel forgotten in seasons of quiet contemplation, I am surprised and delighted when the Master decides that work and rest can wait. I can almost see Him as He gently calls to me and says let’s do something else for awhile. Let’s have a little fun. I smile as He lifts a small child up and places her in my care, and we go for a joyride.
I hear the child’s laughter, and I am glad that so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow. So much depends on letting God use me in the way and in the timing of His great design. And that is the poetry of belonging to Him and submitting to His perfect will. That is the way my little life is transformed into God’s poetry.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two Interviews This Week!

Yesterday, I recorded an interview with Deacon Tom Fox of Catholic Vitamins and another interview with Terry Barber at St. Joseph Communications. I will keep you posted on how you can listen to these recordings as that information is made available. Terry Barber said that my interview was the first they had recorded with a female convert. That is a tremendous blessing and honor, and I ask Our Lady to use our work to bring more souls to Jesus Christ and His Church!

Please keep both of these interviews in your prayers!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

26 Years of World Youth Days


Friday, February 18, 2011

A Glimpse Into Beauty, father-to-father

It made me smile...

And I blinked back a few tears this morning...

I stepped into St. Gianna's parish around 7:30 this morning. It had been three weeks since my last confession, and I was looking forward to getting things set right with God. The morning Mass would come after that.

This Friday morning double dip in Sacramental grace has become a beautiful and welcome experience.

As I opened the door and reached to slip my fingers in the holy water font, I saw Fr. Elliott standing in the front--

to the right of the Altar,

tall...stately looking,

his head slightly bent to one side, chin tilted upward,

as he studied the face of St. Joseph.

I wanted to smile because it was obvious that he wasn't doing what I had once believed Catholics to do.

He wasn't worshiping dear Joseph.

Oh, no. He was looking at him and thinking and in a meditation so deep that at first he did not realize that I was standing at the back of the church.

My eyes misted a bit because it was a powerful witness. Even this very holy priest goes to the holy ones to get direction on how to live out his vocation.

I wonder what the foster father to Our Lord inspired him to do or think or pray. What did Jesus' earthly father teach Father Elliott in those few moments before he walked into the confessional and fathered me?

St. Joseph, I love you. I love that you inspire dads and holy priests.

And I love moments like this, when I am given the great privilege of seeing the Catholic Church in all her beauty . . . in all her meekness . . . in simple holiness.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Antidote to Fear

I've spent a lot of time thinking about why I'm Catholic. My shortest answer is simply that it is a result of grace moving in my life (hence the name of my column, podcasts and blog).

But I haven't spent much time thinking (or writing) about the reason why most serious fundamentalists and evangelicals are NOT Catholic--

--and why they do not even consider it a viable option or even a possible choice among many choices.

It comes down to this. The Catholic Church does not see herself as a possible choice among many choices.

The fact that the Church states that She is the Church Christ founded makes most (if not all) evangelicals dismiss her completely.

It sounds too much like a cult.

Cults believe they are the Church. The Way. Chosen. Established by God Himself.

So, Catholicism is lumped in with the groups that make this claim. You say that you are the Church Jesus Christ founded. Enough said. I'm out of here.

There is a problem with that generalization. What if there really is a Church that was founded by Jesus?

She would have to be present from the moment of Pentecost forward. She would have weathered the gates of hell and still be standing. She would have to be able to point to a line of holy people that were made holy while in the embrace of this Church. She would have to have a message that touches hearts of people in every culture and time. She would have to transcend time, politics, history, culture, trends, whims, and the theoretical. She would have to be able to set up shop in Calcutta, India and be as valid there as she is in Des Moines, Iowa or New York City or La Paz, Bolivia.

She would have to have a resume.

She would have to have a pedigree.

Both the resume and the pedigree would have to resemble Christ.

History would have to affirm her claim and Christ would have to be present there. Really and truly.

One, holy, apostolic, catholic.

There is only one antidote to the fear that says, "You can't say that! You can't say that you are the Church! Come on. You're sounding like a cult now."

The only antidote to that kind of fear is Jesus Christ Himself.

He is here.

His Body is here, for you.

His Blood is here, poured out for you.

The same Christ.

A perfect love.

And perfect love casts out fear.

Yes, it is a radical claim. It is an absurd claim - unless it is true. John 6. It's true.

Come home. He's waiting for you. In the Eucharist.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Love Note to Self #12

‎"Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering" - St. Padre Pio


Reposting For the Deep in Scripture Visitors - in case you want to see this too


I'll be on Deep in Scripture Today!

Deep in Scripture is the radio program with Marcus Grodi of the Coming Home Network International. Every week, Marcus interviews a guest - and they discuss the verses the guest "never saw" as a non-Catholic. My verses are from John 6 and John 17.

Today, you can hear the interview. So tune in to Catholic radio. I'll be meeting you in your car, office, or at home--

Today...on Deep in Scripture!


Facebook Friending 101

There's a method to my Facebook page. I have tried to load the feed with people who post things that inspire me to follow Christ more fully. I wake up in the morning and click on Facebook, and dotted here and there, I find an array of things that are good for the soul.

I need all the help I can get.

And I've become deliberate in the voices I add to my Facebook feed for that very reason.

Oh, I still have a running Feed that tells me what everybody is up to and what they're thinking. But mixed in, I have reminders of the Faith. Lest I forget.

Here's today's status from "Catholic Church" -

"Were any one to ask me, no matter at what moment, 'Of what are you thinking?' it seems to me I could reply, 'God alone occupies my mind.' " - St. Paul of the Cross


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

He's still in high school, but WOW can he write and he doesn't mince words (God bless and keep him)

BadCatholic: Disclaimer!: "One of my biggest fears about being a specifically Catholic writer is that people will make the hideous mistake that I am holy, or even remo..."

For the First Time Ever - the women (who came together through the Blessed Mother) share their story!

On the "In Love of Christ" radio show... which is part of the line-up on JMJ 750 AM (WQOR)--

Listen to the first joint-interview between Mary Beth Kremski and Denise Bossert. Part one will air on March 2nd. Part two will air on March 9th.

The interview "Why Be Catholic" can be heard on "JMJ 750 A.M." (officially WQOR) throughout much of the Scranton Diocese: To the North, roughly to the New York border (Binghamton); to the East about 20 miles into New Jersey; to the South a little below Wilkes Barre.

For more about their unusual Catholic sisterhood and the miracle of the Immaculate Conception that brought them together, click here.

Free Webinar Through Loyola Press on the Changes to the Mass: get the link here

Webinar found here:

But I don't like change.
(Consider offering it up for a convert)
Click here to learn more about this special prayer.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Awesome God - the story of Rich Mullins' last days

Do you remember Rich Mullins' Awesome God song? Rich was killed in a car accident on Sept 20, 1997... and had arranged to have his first Sacrament of Reconciliation the next day - Sept. 21 (A.M.) - with Fr. Paul Coakley (now the Archbishop of Oklahoma City). It was to be his last step in his quest to become Catholic and receive Our Eucharistic Lord. You need to read this posting by Fr. McGuiness, a close friend of Rich.

Rich Mullins: Letter From Father Matt: "Recently we contacted Father Matt McGuiness, a close friend of Rich Mullins. When we asked Father Matt if he knew anything about Rich ..."

February 2011 Catholic by Grace Diocesan Column

When I was a substitute teacher, I had a trick. I set aside precisely three minutes to familiarize myself with the seating chart. As the students were filing in and finding seats, I committed to memory the names of the students who were likely to give me trouble. They were the ones who saw a sub, and something changed. When their attitude shifted, I put their names into short term memory.
At the opening bell, I would put the seating chart down and begin implementing the teacher’s lesson plans- and then when one of the students acted up, I addressed him by name. He would stare at me in shock. Did I know him? Well, that changed everything. Suddenly, things were on a personal level. Anonymity – gone. Incognito no longer.
I could see him thinking. How does she know me? Does she know my parents? Hey, she could write me up with little effort. A name is like a ticket. It gains access to the person. It changes everything.
God disclosed His name to us. He gave it freely. We didn’t wrestle it out of Him, or crack the code, or lift the name from a seating chart. He gave it to us. God knew that, in giving us His name, we could draw closer. Our relationship could get personal. As paragraph 203 of the Catechism says, “To disclose one’s name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible. . . .”
Recently, I traveled to Alabama and Ohio and shared my conversion story. When I arrived, one of the first things I was asked was how I pronounce my name. “It’s bah – as in ‘bah-humbug’ – and cert – as in the breath mints. Bossert.” I could tell that they felt a little embarrassed that they did not know how to pronounce my name automatically. They certainly didn’t need to feel bad about it. Even before our first date, I asked John, “So how do you pronounce that last name anyway?” Now it is my name, and I give the same answer to others that my husband gave to me.
There was a time when we did not know the name of our God. Once, we were strangers. We were very far from the One who made us. In ancient days, He offered His name to Moses, but for each of us, this name remained a mystery. And then He called to us personally, as He called to Moses. Draw closer. There is something I want you to do. And the key to your success rests in one name. My name. I Am. The I Am is sending you.
This Creator has known your name from the moment you were conceived in the womb. He knows you by name because He made you. It is a lesson I share with confirmation students. The One who made you has also called you by name. When you were baptized, you were given a new name. Every time you have entered the Church, from the moment you were old enough to reach the holy water font, you have blessed yourself in that name.
But when you are confirmed, you will stand before God and before his shepherd, the bishop, and you will renew those baptismal promises. At your baptism, God called you as He did to Moses. He gave you His name. Today, he asks you to claim that name – now and forever. He’s preparing to send you into the world, as He did Moses, to free the enslaved, liberate the captives, and share His good news with others. It is time for you to wear His name publicly. It is time for you to become Christ to the world.
When God gave us His name, He gave us more than a name. He reached out to the created ones and the Creator said, Draw close to me. You are mine. I love you. And I have called you by name.
Go and bear witness to the name you have received.

Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I devoured them: your word was my delight and the joy of my heart; for I was called by your name, Lord, God of hosts.


How is Abel's Offering like the Mass?

Everyone knows the story of Cain's offering of grain and the harvest of the field.

And we remember, as well, how Abel brought forth the first-born of his flock as an offering to God.

Abel's offering was an acceptable offering. But God did not look favorably upon Cain's offering.

I've always felt sorry for Cain. It cannot be an easy thing to feel rejected by God. But I don't see that as the point of the story any more. It wasn't about rejection. It was about perfection.

In the Mass, we pray, May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His Name, for our good and the good of all his Church.

Today, something really struck me about the Genesis passage. Cain offered gifts of the field. The faithful do this in the Mass. But that's not the end of it. It does not remain bread and wine. God changes it. And then He changes everything.

Abel offered the first-born of his flock. A perfect lamb. A living sacrifice.

And God was pleased.

In Abel's offering, God saw something more. God could see it all - past, present, and future. Sin and Savior. Wrong made right. The horror of the Fall and the triumph of the Redeemer. When He saw Abel's lamb, He saw the Lamb that was slain. The Lamb that would be slain. The Lamb that is slain. A once-for-all-time, most-perfect Sacrifice.

Lord, accept our sacrifice. Our gifts of the field. Change them.

Look down through the ages and change everything by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Change our gifts. Make them become the living One, the first-born One. The Lamb of God. The perfect sacrifice, made present for all time in the Mass. Calvary-come-to-us. Change the gift, and change our hearts through the Gift.

Do not reject me, Oh Lord. Look kindly on our offering. And look with favor on your Church. And help all Christians to understand that the offering must change. It must be changed. It is the difference between offering Cain's gift.

And that of Abel.

Your Church, like Abel, offering a gift that has been perfected. No longer fruit of the field. Now, the perfect fruit of God. Change the bread and wine. That it may become--

The holy One of Israel.


Our Eucharistic Lord.

When your heart longs for peace and quiet . . . be still and know that He is God.

I read something this morning about Quakers. My great-great grandmother was a Quaker minister; so I was intrigued when Thinking Faith: an online Journal of British Jesuits posted a book review on Quakers.

Quaker spirituality is rooted in the passage: Be still and know that I am God.

Within minutes of reading that review, I popped over to Why I Am Catholic. And I found a blog entry on the quiet life of hermits.

And this letter from Thomas Merton was posted at the end of the entry. It is worth reposting here.

Thomas Merton's Letter to a 6th Grader named Susan

In 1967, Susan Chapulis, a sixth grader studying monasticism, wrote to Thomas Merton asking for “any information whatsoever” that she could share with her class. Merton replied:

Thanks for your nice letter. You want “any information whatsoever” to help the sixth grade in the study of monasticism. Well, I’ll see if I can get the brothers down in the store to send you a little book about the monastery here. That ought to help.

The monastic life goes back a long way. Monks are people who seek to devote all their time to knowing God better and loving Him more. For that reason they leave the cities and go out into lonely places where it is quiet and they can think. As they go on in life they want to find lonelier and lonelier places so they can think even more.

In the end people think these monks are really crazy going off by themselves and of course sometimes they are. On the other hand when you are quiet and when you are free from a lot of cares, when you don’t make enough money to pay taxes, and don’t have a wife to fight with, and when your heart is quiet, you suddenly realize that everything is extremely beautiful and that just by being quiet you can almost sense that God is right there not only with you but even in you. Then you realize that it is worth the trouble of going away where you don’t have to talk and mess around and make a darn fool of yourself in the middle of a lot of people who are running around in circles to no purpose.

I suppose that is why monks go off and live in lonely places. Like me now. I live alone in the woods with squirrels and rabbits and deer and foxes and a huge owl that comes down by my cabin and makes a spooky noise in the night, but we are friends and it is all ok. A monk who lives all by himself in the woods is called a hermit. There is a Rock ’n’ Roll outfit called Herman and his Hermits but they are not the same thing.

I do not suppose for a moment that you wish to become a hermit (though now I understand there are some girl hermits in England and they are sort of friends of mine because they are hermits, so I send them stuff about how to be a hermit). But anyway, I suggest that you sometimes be quiet and think about how good a thing it is that you are loved by God who is infinite and who wants you to be supremely happy and who in fact is going to make you supremely happy. Isn’t that something? It is, my dear, and let us keep praying that it will work out like that for everybody.

Good bye now.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Devout Life: My Conversion Story

I stumbled upon this blog today and after reading a piece on RCIA sponsorship, I clicked over to her conversion story. Excellent. Wonderful story of grace. I guess I will never get tired of reading stories like this. The love of Jesus... the call of Jesus in the Eucharist...

The greatest love story of all time!

The Devout Life: My Conversion Story: "My journey toward Catholicism began when I attended a small, intimate prayer session led by a group of college students in our evangelistic..."

Let the joy of conversion keep on going - the joy of sponsoring another

The Devout Life: Conversion story now online: "Please see the tab above. Our pastor today asked for people who may be called to do RCIA sponsorship to step forward and let him know. What..."

Asking Mary for Help

A few years ago, I consecrated myself to Mary. At the most fundamental level, this simply means that I give all that I have to give... to Jesus Christ... but I ask that my meager gifts pass through the hands of the Blessed Mother before finally coming to rest at Our Lord's feet.

I did not make this consecration without serious thought.

I read about it.

I prayed about it.

And I waited upon the Lord.

I don't get this, I prayed. I don't understand why it is a good thing at all - this consecrating myself to Mary. Isn't it precisely the kind of thing that used to bother me about Catholics? It's all about Jesus. Focus on Christ. Then, when I became Catholic, I realized that Mary is my Mother. And I realized that it is not wrong to show love and respect for Our Lord's Mother. It is, in fact, good and proper and rightly ordered.

But what about consecration to Mary? That's taking it all a little too far, right? Give your gifts to Jesus. Take them to Him directly. Place them at His wounded feet.

So, I prayed, Lord, show me that it is good and proper and rightly ordered - or I will not make this consecration.

And the Magi entered the house. They carried precious gifts for the King of kings. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. And they placed these gifts at the feet of Mary. They knew that the gifts would pass through the hands of the Lord's Mother. And they were okay with that.

God was okay with that. In fact, it was God who had led them every step of the journey, a journey ending at this Home - the Home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

I still offer everything to Jesus. As the Magi did so long ago, I place those treasures that are mine to give... at the feet of the Blessed Mother.

And I reach out and clasp her hand in mine, and I give it a squeeze, saying, "It's for your Son. All I ask is that you make it better than it is . . . these little trinkets I have . . . and then, offer them on my behalf."
That's me...holding the flowers.
Which one of the children
are you?

I like it here - under her Mantle. It is safe here.

And I am close to her Immaculate Heart. She listens to me. She hears me when I'm praying. And she takes my prayers, my deepest desires, and lays them before Christ as well.

Mary, you know my heart. Once again, I beg of you to present my petitions to your Son. All for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.

In union with your Immaculate Heart.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Who can define the word Charism? Raise your hands...if you know!

I never heard this word until I became Catholic. Suddenly, it was everywhere. Do you know what it means? It's an awesome word. More importantly, do you know if you have a charism of your own?

(You can find the answer to today's question in the comment box. Go ahead and take a look. Then, leave a note describing what your charism is."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love That Word

It's my new favorite word. Ephphatha. Ears, be opened!

It's in today's Gospel reading. Jesus touches a man's ears and says, "Be opened!" And the man's ears were opened.

The priest says this word during the Sacrament of Baptism. Little ears, I pray that you will be opened and soon hear and understand the Good News of the Gospel.

An awesome word!

Go ahead, touch your own ears right now and say it. Ephphatha! Lord, open my ears that I may hear You.

Go ahead, hold that tiny son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, and touch those little, adorable ears. Ephphatha! May your ears be open to the Words of Jesus Christ! Grow in your Faith, my little sweetheart!

Ephphatha! Be opened!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Who will answer the question first?

Question of the day: Who was today's saint talking to when she said this: "I asked a favor of you and you refused. I asked it of God and God granted it." -St. Scholastica (name and relationship to her - if you know it)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



Great article by Leona Choy!

TimeLapse March for LIFE DC 2011


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Third Grade Apologetics

It was the 1970s and New Math was everywhere. Mrs. Veninge paired me up with a student who didn't like me at all. Our task? To draw a straight line using a ruler. Five inches long.

I drew a vertical line.

Norma looked at my line and informed me, "That's not a line."

"Of course it is." I said.

"No. A line goes like this." She took another piece of paper and drew a five-inch horizontal line.

I grabbed my paper and walked straight over to Mrs. Veninge. "Mrs. Veninge, Norma says that my line isn't a line. She thinks a line has to go this way!" I drew an imaginary horizontal line in the air."But a line can go any way you want it to go. Can't it!"

Mrs. Veninge didn't say anything.

"Can you come over to our desks and tell Norma that my line is right too!" My teacher just sat there for a moment.

"Why don't you go over there and find a way to show Norma that a line can go your way, too." (Subtitled, stop bothering me, kid.)

I wasn't happy with my teacher. She was supposed to take my side. I was right and I knew it. Why couldn't she just come over and set Norma straight (no pun intended)? A line is a line is a line! What good was a teacher if she wouldn't vindicate you in front of your arch-enemy?

I shuffled my feet back to Norma. She had a really irritating smile on her face that said, See! If you were right, Mrs. Veninge would say so!

I sat down on my chair and thought hard. How do you get through to a kid who has no respect for you? How do you get her to listen and take you seriously?

"Okay, Norma. Draw another line." Norma took another blank piece of paper and proudly drew a second horizontal line.

"Great." I said. "That's a perfect line."

Norma smiled.

Then, I reached over and laid the palm of my hand on the center of her paper. I rotated everything 90 degrees so that the line was now vertical.

"And it's still a line now," I said.

Norma stared at her paper as a light bulb turned on in her thick skull. "Oh."

Sometimes, I want priests or bishops or the holy father to just stand up and tell it like it is. "Come on over to the fullness of the Christian faith. No other Church is 2000 years old! History affirms who we are - what we are. This is the Church Jesus Christ founded. So why not reconsider what the Church has always taught..."

...about the Eucharist.
...about the New Ark of the Covenant.
...about what the Communion of Saints means.
...about what the Early Church Fathers taught.
...about Our Lord's High Priestly Prayer for unity.
...about heaven touching down in the Mass.
...about holiness and grace and mercy and true social justice.

Why don't they just have one big come-to-Jesus-talk with the Normas of the world?

Here's why...

I'm the one sitting by Norma. God gave me a brain and a mouth and a passion for Truth. He wants me to learn a few lessons about getting along with Norma. He wants me to talk to her and show her the Good News. To be the Good News.

There's no easy path to apologetics. You gotta have tenacity. You gotta have ingenuity. You gotta want to help Norma along - not beat her over the head with it.

Sometimes, all Norma needs is a 90 degree re-orientation to the whole thing.

And the light bulb goes off.


I Liked Her Jesus Books, too. (Fr. Dwight Longenecker's take on Anne Rice)

I read things like this and hear God convicting me. Avoid sentimentalism. Run from spiritual pride. Have humility, stamina and good humor.

And run the race with an eye on the finish line - even when the final laps seem really, really hard.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Leave Your Comfort Zone

Coming soon... a joint phone interview with Mary Beth Kremski on Scranton's "In Love of Christ" on JMJ Radio 750 AM - hosted by Jerome Gilmartin.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

When My Daughter Visits with my Two Grandbabies

When my daughter visits with a one-year-old and a two-month-old, I get next-to-nothing done. The computer sits on the office desk, quiet. The light on the motherboard is off. The keyboard - unattended.

I'm playing with babies and cooking and washing and drying and grabbing a nap when I can get it. Everything gets turned upside-down.

And I realize that it is one more season in life in which to practice my Catholic Faith.

I used to wonder how anyone could really "pray without ceasing" - life is too busy for that.

But I didn't realize that the busy life is prayer.

He's still there, and I'm talking to Him more than ever. this child to grow into a deep love for you. me to be the grandma he needs. my grown children and my tiny grandchildren to see You when they see me.

The busy life... is prayer.

No Salt Added - bleh!

(Contemplating what it means to be Salt to the Earth...)

In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount and tells the disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” 
Salt brings out the flavors of the ingredients. It is also a preservative. I don’t usually think very much about how salt enhances the flavor of food – until I accidentally pick up a “no salt” can of green beans at the grocery store. The can usually sits on the pantry shelf for two years, where it gets buried behind soup cans and boxes of macaroni and cheese. When I finally pull it from the far recesses of the pantry many months later, I sigh heavily and toss it in the trashcan.
Salt is that important.
So the question is this: has the Catholic Church fulfilled the call to be the salt of the earth?
Let’s say you are headed off to college. You look at the list of majors, and you settle on one. Will it be music, education, agriculture, science, architecture, literature, art, politics, or social studies? A sincere study of any of these disciplines will reveal that the Church really has taken the Lord’s command seriously. She has been salt to all that is good and beautiful in the human experience.
Ponder a moment how the Church has affected, enhanced, or transformed the field you know best.  Did the Catholic Church or the Mass birth any great musicians or generate any great musical pieces? 
When and how did formal education begin?  Who were the intellectual giants in centuries past? 
How did the early Church affect agriculture or science or political structures?  How did it affect societal institutions? 
What are the finest examples of European architecture?  What inspired the greatest artists?  Name a few great works of art. Imagine the art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance without the influence of the Catholic Church. What would be left for art majors to study?
And then there’s my major. Literature. One of the first readings assigned to a literature major is The Dream of the Rood (the cross). Catholic influence can be seen in such works as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare’s plays. Because England was Catholic for centuries before it was Protestant, even the literature that came after the reign of King Henry VIII contains remnants and imitations of Catholic Tradition. In more recent times, we have seen a revival of Catholic influence in the works of writers like Chesterton, Hopkins, Belloc, Tolkien, and Waugh. Another set of writers heavily influenced by Catholic thought are C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot.
As we reflect on these fields of study, we have a tendency to think only of examples from British and American culture.  If we had the ability to travel to Europe or other holy sites of the early Church, we would stand in awe of the breadth and depth of influence our Church has had on human existence. If we could peek into the rooms of monasteries in centuries past, we would see holy men meticulously copying great spiritual, literary and scholarly works. 
We would see holy men and women farming the land, building schools and universities, writing journals and sermons, developing their ideas about theology and philosophy and psychology, commissioning architects and painters, influencing political leaders to seek peace and justice and truth, as well as nursing the sick and feeding the poor and building up every other social structure and institution.
Truly, the Church has been the Salt of the Earth.
If the purpose of salt is to bring out the flavors of the ingredients, then the Catholic Church has fulfilled this calling. If the purpose of salt is to preserve the goodness of the ingredients, again, the Catholic Church has fulfilled this calling. All human experience has been touched, enhanced, and preserved through the contributions of the Church.
And every liberal arts graduate knows it.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

St. Blaise . . . pray for us!

(Originally posted October 2009. Reposted today to mark the Feast of St. Blaise, patron against throat illnesses.)

On Sunday, during the parish dinner, a man choked on a piece of food. His wife stood up and put her arms around her husband and attempted to save him. In a matter of a few seconds, those of us working the floor of the hall noticed their crisis and called to a few large men to spring into action. One man made it to their table and took over. Almost immediately, the victim's air passage was cleared, and he could breathe again.

I know what it is like to choke on food. It can be absolutely terrifying. In those critical seconds, you wonder if this is it. You know that, unless something happens to change the situation, you simply aren't going to make it.

Oxygen is that important.

As I watched from a short distance away, I found myself immediately in prayer. But the only thing I could say was Jesus. Oh Jesus.

I've only prayed that short prayer once before. It was on the day I choked. In fact, it was while I was choking. In both cases, the name of Jesus became a plea for help - for help from the only one who really could help. Jesus.

It saddens me deeply when people use Our Lord's name so casually. In exasperation. In anger. In surprise.

This one who has died for us and who gives us His own Flesh and Blood so that we might live - this name we misuse. This name we defile.

We are told in Sacred Scripture that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

By this name, we are saved.

And even as I invoked the Holy Name of Jesus Christ in my one word prayer, Jesus, the man's air passage cleared and he began taking in deep breaths.

I have seen this man before. He comes to Mass every week, pushing a walker, making his way to the front to receive the Eucharist. Oh, he could stay home and nobody would think twice about it. God would even understand. Someone could bring the Eucharist to him. I don't know the name of his illness, but I do know that he can't be older than I am. Probably in his forties. But something has gone very wrong. He is frail. I've seen him collapse as he walked forward to receive the Eucharist. I have watched as ushers ran to help him back to his seat. I have watched as Father walked directly to him to bring Our Lord's Body to this one who suffers so greatly.

On Sunday, my husband was an usher at Mass. He greeted this husband and wife as they entered the narthex. John asked the man how he was. The husband didn't complain, though he was hunched over the walker and barely able to shuffle his feet along the floor and into the sanctuary.

The man replied that he was doing well. It was a good day.

And even though he struggles to walk, he comes to Mass.

Even though he risks falling in front of everyone, it doesn't seem to deter him. He still keeps making his way toward the Eucharist.

Even though he has a tendency to choke, probably due to the illness, he still comes to the parish dinner. He still breaks bread with all of us.

At Mass.

At the parish dinner.

In moments like these, I witness a portion of grace far greater than I have personally witnessed ever before. That kind of strength comes from God. No amount of personal determination and grit could account for the strength I see in this ailing and failing man.

And after I ponder this, I take a look at his wife. She is right there, by his side, as he enters the church, as he receives Our Lord. She is there behind him, using all of the strength her small frame can muster to wrap her arms around him and perform the manuever to rescue him from the brink of death. She is there with the napkin to wipe his mouth after the food and saliva run down his chin. She is always right there.

My friends, this is Catholic faith. It is richer and deeper and holier and more faithful and self-effacing than any faith I have ever seen.

It is the kind of faith that makes saints.

And I hunger for more of it. More and more of it. Until even the shadow of the valley of death cannot shake me.

I'll keep praying for this man - and for the wife that loves him so very much. St. Blaise, pray to the Lord Jesus Christ for everyone who suffers from illnesses that affect the throat.


St. Valentine Project

If you haven't been to Catholic Icing in awhile, you should click over to the blog. It's Catholic eye-candy for kids. She has a great idea for a St. Valentine project. The kids will love it!

Click here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Simeon Figured It Out First: Recognizing Jesus in the Arms of Mary

He'd waited almost forever to see the face of God. I wonder how he knew it would happen? When did he first realize that one day - someday - the Lord of Life would come through the Temple doors? Did he have some idea of what God would look like? Did the Holy Spirit give him some clues? Or was it all so other-worldly that Simeon just knew that it would happen, and he just knew that he would recognize the moment when it did happen?
When he had lived many years, when he had seen many days come and go in God's holy place, it finally happened.
Mary entered the Temple. And Simeon knew that the Lord of Life, the Messiah, the long-awaited King . . . God's son . . . had finally come!

[Simeon] took [Jesus] into his arms and blessed God; and he said:
‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’
I think I understand how Simeon felt that day.
You see, Mary walked into my life, too. She walked in with grace and quiet joy and threw open the doors of my heart. I had always wondered what it would be like to truly be in His Presence. And on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, in the year 2005, the Mother of Our Lord shared her Son with me for the first time.
In the years that have passed since that First Holy Communion, the very things that Simeon promised have occurred in my life. Many things which were once buried in my heart have been laid bare. This walk to holiness is not easy. Change is not always immediate. But, if we long to see Jesus with all of our hearts, Our Lady will bring Him to us.
And He will change us.
God willing, we will be among the ranks of the saints . . . on that day when we can say, like Simeon, Now Master, let your servant go in peace, just as you promised.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Memorize Scripture AND Prayers - and do battle against the enemy of your soul

I love "Holy Spirit" prayers. If you have one that isn't listed here, I encourage you to post it in a comment box.

The first Holy Spirit prayer I encountered was at a United Methodist "Walk to Emmaus" retreat:

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of the faithful,
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit,
and they shall be created,
and You shall renew the face of the earth.

The second Holy Spirit prayer I committed to memory was one I learned from a deacon at my parish. I assist him with the Confirmation class, and he requires the students to memorize this one. I realized that it would be foolish to expect the students to learn it if I was unwilling to learn it myself. So, I memorized this one:

Send your Holy Spirit upon us
to be our helper and guide.
Give us the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of right judgment and courage,
the Spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill us with wonder and awe in your Presence.

And now for the one I am currently committing to memory. It is St. Augustine's Prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit,
that I may always be holy..... Amen.

I used to think it was inappropriate to memorize and recite prayers. Certainly, it stifled the unpredictable, spontaneous, serendipitous movement of the Holy Spirit in one's life. Right? Didn't it box God (and the human soul) into a pre-fab rote prayer and render the whole thing pointless?

Oh, my friend! I couldn't have been more wrong.

If it is good to commit Sacred Scripture to memory (and it certainly is - and I've firmly believed that since my days as an Evangelical Protestant), then it is helpful to have an arsenal of prayers as we battle the enemy of our souls.

I still memorize passages of Sacred Scripture. In fact, I do it more than I ever did as an Evangelical. Maybe the Liturgy has sparked that desire within me. The Liturgy is the ultimate venue for hiding "Thy Word in my heart...that I might not sin against You." If you love memorizing the Word and hiding it in your heart, you gotta love the Liturgy!

So, we Catholics commit prayers and Scripture to heart - and the practice is invaluable in this battle for the salvation of one's own soul. St. Augustine got it right. It is all about becoming holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I holy!