Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reformation Day through the eyes of a Roman Catholic Preacher's Kid

I didn't realize that today is Reformation Day - until someone posted it on Facebook. It was a celebratory post. Happy Reformation Day!

And the one who posted it is a relative of mine.

Martin Luther

Reformation Day marks the Protestant Reformation. It honors the men who walked away from the Catholic Church and began creating denominations.

I come from a Protestant family. Dad was a preacher. I don't remember celebrating Reformation Day, and I didn't even realize it existed until I became Catholic.

When I first heard about it, I was sad. Really? We think it's fun to celebrate this greatest of divisions? We delight in the fact that so many have gone a different way and left the Sacraments behind - the Eucharist behind?

In my dad's second pastorate, there were some high school boys. When the adults weren't looking,
they would thump us on the head - really hard - with their knuckles. They would glom onto our toys and mistreat them. Sometimes, they would break them.

And we would blink back tears.

That's how it feels to read celebratory posts about Reformation Day.

It stings. It's like being hurt by kids who don't really understand how it feels. Kids who can move on to other things in a few minutes and not realize you are still stinging from their pranks. It's like having our toys used and abused.

Okay, I'm going to blink back the tears and move on now. It's All Hallows Eve. Time for Mass. Time to prepare to celebrate what really matters!

We have brothers and sisters who went before us and overcame. It is time to remember what matters. Holiness is possible. Jesus really does save. Saints are praying.

Thanks be to God!


Praying With Mary

There’s just nothing fun about a colonoscopy. Not. One. Thing.

This time, I had a sinus infection that peaked on the day I drank the tanker of Gatorade-Miralax mix.

I should be ultra-thankful for modern medicine that keeps me well – but when you’re in the middle of gagging down lemon-lime ackiness and running to the bathroom, it’s hard to drum up gratitude.

So, yesterday, I kept returning to my Catholic faith. Offer it up, Denise. Just offer it up.

It didn’t make me feel better, but it did make me feel useful.

Recently, I renewed my consecration to Jesus-through-Mary. I read 33 Days to Morning Glory, and I was struck by something that had escaped me in the five-plus years since I made my first consecration.

To be truly consecrated to the Blessed Mother, we must be willing to take her petitions as our own. I no longer have jurisdiction over my prayers.

That was a hard thing to accept. I thought I was all-in with this consecration thing. Suddenly, I realized I was not as far along as I had thought.

I have prayed a lot over the years.

But I always had my list of petitions, and that list of petitions was (usually) limited to my family members. They got all of my attention – and I liked it that way.

Now, I realized, Mary wanted me to take on her intentions. She wanted me to trust that she would know what to do with my family – that they wouldn’t be lost if I completely gave over control to Mary. Her mantle was big enough to cover every petition.

She simply wanted me to trust her. To care about what she cares about.

Now . . . I have prayed the Rosary many times. And from my first days as a new convert, I dedicated each decade to one of the other five members in my family. Things were about to change. I had to pray that Rosary with as much fervor as before – but now, it must be for Mary’s intentions. Could I do it? As a mom and grandma, that's a tall order. I want to pray for those who are closest to me.

I remember the first time I tried to pray for the things that Mary has in her Immaculate Heart, deliberately setting aside my family's needs. I was amazed by what happened next.

The beautiful thing happened – that thing that used to happen in those early days of conversion - that thing that doesn't happen quite as often any more – that contemplative communion that St. Teresa of Avila describes. Consolation upon consolation. Joy. Holiness. Rapture. I was in the presence of God.

And I heard God speak to my heart.

That day, a mom had a special prayer intention that she shared through social media. It was for her son.

I don’t know very much about the situation. I had no idea what to pray for – specifically.

Until, God spoke. The boy came to my mind, and I knew how to pray.

And it felt amazing – a true communion with the Saints – and especially with Mary. There was a boy who had some old hurts, and he was working through them. God was healing old hurts.

So, what does all of this have to do with a sinus headache and a colonoscopy? Well, there wasn’t any great contemplative prayer going on yesterday. I spent most of my time feeling awful – but I offered it up.

Last night, late, long after I had swallowed my last mouthful of lemon-lime mixer, I saw a post on Facebook. Another mother needed prayers. Her preemie was back in the hospital - fighting off an illness – and his life was hanging in the balance. I suspected that this was Mary's intention. And it became my intention as well. I offered the day for a baby I will never meet. For a mother I will never know. For Mary's intentions.

This morning, while the fog of outpatient anesthesia was wearing off, I clicked on Facebook and read that the little boy made it through the night. Thanks be to God.

I’m learning to take Mary’s petitions and make them my own. I am still learning.

But it is good and sweet and a very beautiful gift we have – and it is ours to give. Through Mary, I offer all my works, prayers, joys, and sufferings, all that this day may bring. For Jesus.

All for Jesus through Mary.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

White Glove Test

I have always had a lived-in house. No spic-and-span for me. No white-glove test on the window sills.

I have tried the daily list. Vacuuming everything on Mondays. Washing clothes Tuesdays and Fridays. Bathrooms on Wednesdays and dusting on Thursdays.

I rarely have a clean house - a totally clean house, that is. My children were always the kids who asked, "is someone coming" when I managed to get the house in order.

That is okay for houses.

But that is not okay for souls.

We shouldn't wait for mortal sin to send us to the confessional - like I wait to see the dust accumulate before dusting or my feet to stick to the floor before mopping.

We are meant to be holy - as He is holy. To be perfect - as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

And that cannot happen if we fail to put our souls in order.

Our souls were never meant to settle for the world's lived-in standard.

If you come to my house, the floors may be sticky because the grandsons came for a visit. If you sit at the piano to play me a song, you may find that the keys are dusty and the Mozart statue on the upright piano is dusty, too. The fireplace may still have ashes from the previous winter's final hurrah.

But there is one thing I want clean - one thing I will not leave a mess.

My soul has either just been made clean through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Blood of the Lamb - or there is a little notebook in the bottom of my purse that keeps track of what needs to be cleaned. It goes with me into the Confessional where the Lord has washed away some complicated heaps of trash. We are now working on the corners and crevices where dirt likes to hide.

I am not perfect. But that is my goal.

I am not yet holy. But that is my desire.

When I die, the house may be left a bit of a mess, but I pray my soul is ready to entertain the King of kings.

If not, bring on purgatory.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Everyone really is fighting a battle.

One of the more popular quotes on Pinterest today goes something like this: "Be kind - everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

Who knows where the quote originated. According to Wikipedia, it was first coined by a Scottish writer and minister by the name of Ian Maclaren who died from a bad case of tonsillitis while visiting the U.S. The illness overcame him, and he took his last breath in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Iowa. My home state. I am quite familiar with good ole' Highway 218 which used to cut right through Mount Pleasant. Now, it bypasses the little Iowa town and is known as The Avenue of Saints.

But I digress.

I thought about the quote yesterday as I had breakfast with my daughter at Panera. Those of us who live in the Greater STL area know the eating establishment as The St. Louis Bread Company. Home of great bagels and coffee.

A middle-aged woman sat at a nearby table - a newspaper spread from one end of the tabletop to the other. She hopped up to get another bagel or cup of coffee, and turned around to look back at her table. I glanced up when I heard her snapping her fingers like a mother might do to reprimand her child.

"What are you doing? That's MY table! I'm still sitting there." She was livid.

A grown man looked up and mumbled something about not realizing she was coming back. He slinked back to his table and waited for his friend to join him. An older man finished filling his cup and took the seat beside the newspaper-thief.

They began chatting.

My fourteen-year-old daughter whispered, "Awkward," and spread more cream cheese on her asiago bagel.

When the woman returned to her table, the would-be thief attempted to apologize once more. But the woman was still miffed, making reconciliation impossible.

"Couldn't you tell I was still sitting here? My glasses are here. My plate. My purse. Seriously, couldn't you tell I was coming back?" She pointed at each personal possession as she named it, and then nailed him with a look over her reading glasses that declared him to be either an idiot or a -- well, since this is a Catholic blog, I won't write that word here.

The man abandoned the apology and went back to his conversation with the older man and the woman returned to reading her newspaper.

By now, I am in full-people-watch mode.

Within minutes, the man's story took shape. He thanked his friend for meeting him. Asked him if he had any leads on jobs. Anything. I'll do almost anything. My dad has helped us out a lot financially. Really, everything is going well. My wife is even doing better.

Over the course of the conversation, I pieced together that the man's wife had been ill - quite ill - due to some unfortunate health problem that was left unsaid.

Actually, everything would be just great, if I could get a job. It's been almost a year.

And that's when I began to wonder. The newspaper thief seemed to be at least middle class. He wore a suit coat. Had well-groomed hair. Was clean-shaven. Wore glasses that made him look almost handsome. But he wasn't eating or drinking anything.

Could it be that the man was simply looking for the help wanted pages? Was he pinching pennies out of necessity and not because he was some arrogant *&^&)*^$?

Is it possible that the woman just didn't realize that the trespasser was dealing with some really tough stuff, and all he wanted was a couple of pages from her paper.

I thought about their conversation. How she had ended it by saying there are more papers right over there if you want to buy one for yourself.

She had been indignant at that point. The man didn't get up from his chair then. He didn't go buy a paper. He just thanked her. And kept waiting for his friend.

I felt convicted. How would I have responded if I had been the woman? Would I have been angry. Would I have snapped my fingers at the man? No. I don't like to draw attention to myself like that. But I definitely would have been irritated by a man who violated my personal space the second I stood up and walked away from my table.

Everyone really is fighting a battle. Everyone. And I wouldn't have realized it any better than the woman with the angry snapping fingers.

Unemployment. A spouse with health issues. God knows what else.

How difficult would it have been for the woman to ask the newspaper-thief if he was looking for something in particular? If I'm not reading it, you are welcome to it.

That wouldn't have been so hard. Not hard at all.

So, a Scotsman who died in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, might have left us the key to peace and justice and charity.

Everyone really is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Be kind. Share the love of Christ with all people.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Denise will be on the Son Rise Morning Show

Denise will join the Son Rise Morning Show Tuesday (10/22/13) at 7:45 ET.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Check Out the New Website:

The new website is up and running!

You can still find Denise at:

and now... on her new website:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mary and the New Evangelization

Image from The Catholic Company - Facebook Page
Today, Pope Francis consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

If you have followed my blog, you know that I once struggled with Church teaching on the Immaculate Conception - and you know that, today, I am consecrated fully to Mary.

Like so many others, I have come to know Mary as a tender and merciful mother. In 2007, I went through St. Louis de Montfort's Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.

I have a heart for evangelization. Maybe you do as well. Just as there is no quicker and easier path to holiness than through Mary, there is no quicker and smoother path to evangelizing the world than through the Immaculate Conception.

In 33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, explains that the goal of St. Maximilian Kolbe's Militia Immaculata "was nothing less than to bring the whole world to God through Christ under the generalship of Mary Immaculate" (50).

She is Judith. She is Deborah. She is Queen Esther. But Mary's goal is not just the salvation of a few. It is not limited to the salvation of one nation.

If you have a heart for evangelization, you need to know something. Mary's heart for evangelization is bigger and wider than you can possibly imagine. Her Immaculate Heart is fixed on one thing: "The Conversion of the entire world" (60 Gaitley).

That is why Pope Francis has consecrated the world to her Immaculate Heart.

She is not looking for an army whose end is found in serving her. She is building an army who will follow her in battle - to bring a lost world to Christ.

For Mary, it is always about Christ.

Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?

Confer, O Lord, on us, who serve beneath the standard of Mary, that fullness of faith in You and trust in her, to which it is given to conquer the world. Grant us a lively faith, animated by charity, which will enable us to perform all our actions from the motive of pure love of You, and ever to see You and serve You in our neighbor; a faith, firm and immovable as a rock, through which we shall rest tranquil and steadfast amid the crosses, toils and disappointments of life; a courageous faith which will inspire us to undertake and carry out without hesitation great things for your glory and for the salvation of souls; a faith which will be our Legion's Pillar of Fire - to lead us forth united - to kindle everywhere the fires of divine love - to enlighten those who are in darkness and in the shadow of death - to inflame those who are lukewarm - to bring back life to those who are dead in sin; and which will guide our own feet in the way of peace; so that - the battle of life over - our Legion may reassemble, without the loss of any one, in the kingdom of Your love and glory. Amen.

(prayers take from Legion of Mary)


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Praying the Rosary With a Child's Heart by Pope John Paul I (1978)

"To be, for a half hour at least, before God as I am in reality, with all my misery and with the best of myself; to let rise to the surface from the depths of my being the child I once was, who wants to laugh, to chatter, to love the Lord and who sometimes feels the need to cry so that he may be shown mercy, helps me to pray. The rosary, a simple and easy prayer, helps me to be a child and I am not ashamed at all." -Pope John Paul I (1978) who reigned for 33 days.


Monday, October 7, 2013

World Mission Sunday Is Coming!


Friday, October 4, 2013

September 2012 Catholic by Grace Column

Dad tried to convince me to become a Presbyterian minister. Presbyterians had embraced women’s ordination. My father could think of nothing that would make him prouder than for one of his children to follow in his footsteps and become a Protestant preacher. My sister was more interested in science and math than theology and philosophy, so Dad targeted me.

I laughed, and said, “No way. I see what you go through. Every parishioner is a critic. You have as many bosses as you have members on the parish roster. And many of them criticize you behind your back!”

It was sad, but true.

I still don’t like gossip, and as a Catholic convert, I am particularly uneasy when I hear someone talking about a priest.

Old Testament David would not be amused.

I remember sitting on my grandma’s lap as she read the story of young David and King Saul from a children’s Bible. When David stumbles upon King Saul in a cave, he knows this is his one chance to end the deadly cat-and-mouse game that King Saul started. But David merely cuts a square from Saul’s garment and walks away – to prove to Saul that David is his trusted servant.

“I will not raise my hand to God’s anointed one.” It was David’s motto, and it should be ours as well.

Most of us would walk away from revenge. But how often do we use our tongues as a weapon? A weapon against a family member. A colleague. And even one’s own priest.

Words are powerful. They kill friendships and wound marriages. They turn neighbors into enemies. They can make a person resign or stop going home for the holidays.

But I think the greatest damage the tongue can do is in a parish.

When I was about five years old, I learned a song in Bible school. “Oh be careful little mouth what you say. For the Father up above is looking down in love. So be careful little mouth what you say.”

It is a lesson I need to learn.

As much as I hate gossip, I find it difficult to walk away when others dabble in it. All too often, I have remained silent or even participated in the conversation when I should have come to the defense of another. When two people gossip, the “weak and defenseless one” is the one who is not even present to refute the accusations. He is the one that I am charged with defending!

Father, forgive me.

Sins such as these affect the Body of Christ. Each one of us is made in the likeness of Christ. Our fellow Catholics have been anointed with Holy Chrism. And so, we are called to remember David’s motto. “I will not raise my hand to God’s anointed one.”

Sometimes, that means coming to the defense of the one who isn’t even present to make a defense.

And sometimes, the hand we must not raise is actually a mouth that should not speak.

In his homily at a morning Mass on April 9, 2013, Pope Francis exhorted the faithful to remain meek and refuse to speak ill of others. Meekness has “many enemies,” he said, explaining that gossip is the first enemy of meekness. The Holy Father wants us to put aside a gossiping tongue and a critical spirit. "When one prefers gossiping, gossiping about another, it's like clobbering another . . . it is a temptation of the Evil One," said Pope Francis.

If we are to be one body in Christ, we must place a guard on our tongues. Father, silence our wayward tongues and make us truly one.