Wednesday, January 15, 2020

my strength in all my crosses

“My HEART is ready, O God; 
I will sing, sing your praise.”
~psalm 108

May the eyes of our HEARTS be enlightened, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to God’s call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones.”
~Ephesians 1:18

“How long must I bear grief in my soul,
this sorrow in my HEART day and night?…

As for me, I trust in your merciful love.
Let my HEART rejoice in your saving help;
Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me…”
~psalm 13

“I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my HEART…

And so my HEART rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.”
psalm 16

“May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard our HEARTS in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
~Philippians 4:7

You, then, shall be my strength, O my God! You shall be my guide, my director, my counselor, my patience, my knowledge, my peace, my justice, and my prudence. i will have recourse to you in my temptations, in my dryness, in my repugnances, in my weariness, in my fears; or rather I will no longer fear either the illusions or the tricks of the demon, nor my own weakness, my indiscretions, nor even my mistrust of myself. For you must be my strength in all my crosses.”
~Saint Claude de la Colombière

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For the past several months — or rather, more than likely since my first angioplasty this past year, I have felt understandably off-balance. Even as my body recovered and got used to the new meds, my emotions have been all over the planet — and my spirit has felt, for lack of a better word, unsettled. 

Like a walk through dense, deep fog, everything has been just a little out of focus. And the peace that I have been yearning for has felt just out of reach. 

Fearful. Anxious. Unsure of myself. And on top of it all, a thick dose of guilt about everything I have been feeling. How am I not overwhelmed with gratefulness? Why am I not jumping to the sky with joy? I did not have a heart attack. we caught things before “the widowmaker” stopped my heart, before anything irreversible happened. 

In other words, why am I not, well, completely overwhelmed by courage, hope, thanksgiving, and life?

The root of the word COURAGE is COR, the Latin word for HEART. So, in the word’s earliest form, the word COURAGE literally meant, “to speak one’s mind by telling all that is in one’s HEART.”

If I am to tell all of what’s in my HEART, I must begin by acknowledging that learning this past year that I have a heart condition, makes me feel vulnerable, and often, extremely fragile. 

Yet any doubts that I have and that I acknowledge about myself, my ability to handle things, or more importantly, about my faith, does not make me unworthy, unfaithful, or lacking. 

It makes me open and real and seeking. And that is where God is. I am not alone.

That is my COR, my heart, the source of my COURAGE.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

as for me and my house...

I love the crazy chaos of our full house, when all 22 of us share space, beds, and break bread under one roof.  

Of course, with that many people and that much going on, the Texas-sized serving of goodness also includes side-dishes of: mess and chaos; arguing; hurt feelings; mis-understandings; anxiety; unending piles of dirty dishes; lack of sleep… 

But ultimately, none of that is what I remember.

When everyone is here, we seem to move like a wave through the house, from room to room, ultimately retreating back into the ocean that is our large living room. That’s where we gather to pray together, where we have our Christmas toast, where we play games, and where the kids drag us to read books—or to read books to us!

This house has felt so much of our life, embraced so many visitors, experienced so many changes in the pulsating heart that is my Tribe. 

It’s as if the house itself holds our family frame together.

The summer my father died, for example, our oldest daughter wrote a beautiful piece that I thought captured brilliantly the relationship between this house and our family. It began like this: 

My parents have this magical house.  At first it seems like your typical fairly large suburban home, with two living rooms, a too-small kitchen, a separate dining room, and a few bedrooms.  If you go upstairs, you immediately see a bathroom, a laundry closet, and three bedroom doors—but then you round the corner and see down a long hallway a fourth bedroom door.   
The house is bigger than you thought: a four-bedroom house with a surplus of shared living spaces.  But then you keep exploring, and you realize that one of the bedroom doors opens to two rooms and a second upstairs bathroom…  
While we have had about thirty people sleep there on New Year’s Eves past, the house can sleep seven couples with privacy, or four couples, three babies, one child, and one single adult.  This is what we did last week, sharing in each other’s grief.  
The mornings were slow, with parents groggily and babies happily arising from bed.  Every morning someone made coffee; most mornings someone else went on a Starbuck’s run for lattes and cappuccinos.  Midday could find us all in and out of the kitchen, warming food that people brought by… 
In the afternoons, people would take turns disappearing: to walk, to nap, to try to nap, to cry, to read.  The house, along with the babies, would sleep.  In the evenings we came back together, around the table, to nourish our bodies and, in the latter part of the week, to share stories of the wake, the funeral, and Abba himself…  
The women ate too many sweets while the men drank beer.  We talked and joked.  It began to feel like Christmas, when we were gathered around the table after the babies were in bed. 
But then we were stung again when we remembered that Abba wasn’t sitting contentedly next to Nana, his eyes laughing, as he did at Christmas…  
[to read Anamaría’s whole piece, click here: Accidental Discoveries]

I have lived in 23 houses—but in this one, by far, for the longest. 

Yes, of course, it is just a house. And I know in my head that the memories, and certainly the people, will go with us when we move soon to our next home.

But it’s going to be difficult for my heart to leave this one.

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“Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. 
Take to heart these words which I command you today. 
Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. 
Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. 
Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”
~Deuteronomy 6: 5-9

Sunday, December 1, 2019

I confess... I miss anxiety

It’s just one word. 

But I still notice it, almost every time. 

I miss “anxiety.”

It's been eight years now since the new English translation of the Roman Missal was implemented in Catholic parishes across the country on the first Sunday of Advent--back in 2011.

At our own parish, we were well prepared for the changes by our pastor, who arranged very helpful homilies, over several weeks, and even started using the new language two months early! It was his way of helping us to focus on Advent-- and not on whether we were getting the words “right.”

At the time, as we worked on the transition as a community, I found it very helpful to keep in mind the responses we say at Mass in Spanish.  The 2011 English translation parallels those Spanish responses much better than the previous one ever did.

Yet there is one point at Mass that still stalls me.

Right after we say the Our Father, the celebrant’s prayer that leads to the Sign of Peace, currently says:
Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
But prior to Advent 2011, the prayer was:
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 
Protect us from ALL ANXIETY.

There is nothing wrong with distress. But I genuinely miss begging God, as a community, to protect us from anxiety, all anxiety.

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I have two free Advent Apps from MAGNIFICAT to give away!! 
Please leave a blog message or private message me if you’d like one!! 
First come first serve.

Happy first day of Advent! 

Monday, September 30, 2019

remembering Santa María la Real

capilla de Eunate, 
Camino de Santiago, España

My friend Pat & I walked out from the small tree-covered hill and stepped suddenly into a landscape of lined crops and dust fields. Next to a busy highway to our right, we recognized what had to be the famous chapel at Eunate, whose Basque name means “the Hundred Doorways.” 

Described by guide books as “one of the jewels” of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the chapel actually required a 4 to 5 kilometer walking detour off the main route on el Camino de Santiago

I might have been the first one in our family to walk the Camino, but since that summer (16 years ago!),  Michael has walked it, as well as two of my adult children and their spouses! 

The other night, several of us stayed up telling stories and remembering special moments in our Camino, like the morning Pat and I encountered the Shepherd (see here), and our 23-mile-day (see here)

Looking back on the morning we visited Eunate, I remain grateful that the decision whether or not to detour came on the second day of our pilgrimage walk from Pamplona. In all honesty, if we had to make the same decision a week later, I know I would have been tempted to ignore the guidebooks and obsessed solely about the extra number of kilometers that it would add to our walking day!

From the woman living next door to the church, its unofficial caretaker, I learned that the origins of the small octagonal church are obscure. Its unusual shape suggests a link with the Knights Templar, whose churches often resembled the octagonal structure of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Graves marked with scallop shells (the sign of the pilgrims) have been discovered between the church and its surrounding arched cloister, suggesting that Eunate was once a major funerary chapel for pilgrims who died along the Camino de Santiago. 

I was immediately drawn to the chapel’s simple and spartan interior. Floor to ceiling pillar buttresses stretched upward, as if reaching for heaven, and small marble windows let in only a gentle, soft light, making it breathtakingly serene. 

Only one image stood in the entire church, a mid-size statue of Mary that, I learned (several walking days later) in Najera, was known as Santa María la Real

She was, indeed, royally dressed, with a gold dress and a gold crown on both hers and Jesus’ heads.

Perhaps it was the way her left arm lovingly encircled the child on her lap. But there was something completely disarming in this Mary’s smile that instantly won me over.

Without words, with only a slight but captivating smile, she told me how much she loved her son.

She might be the queen of heaven, but clearly, Santa María la Real was a mother first. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

my dear friend... a letter for you, from God


"Come to me, all you who labor 
and are burdened, 
and I will give you rest"

my dear friend [insert your name here],
Yes, come for rest. But stay for rest, too. 
Stop all feverish haste and be calm and untroubled. 
Come unto Me, not only for petitions to be granted but for nearness to Me. 
Be sure of My Help, be conscious of My Presence, and wait until My Rest fills your soul. 
Rest knows no fear. Rest knows no want. Rest is strong, sure. The rest of soft glades and peaceful flowing rivers, of strong, immovable hills. 
Rest, and all you need to gain this rest is to come to Me. So come! [all emphasis mine]

~from God Calling, A. J. Russell
daily devotional, entry for today,
September 25

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When I look over my recent posts here, it is obvious that for the past several months, my energy and time has gone elsewhere! I am sorry for the radio silence.

As re-charging as writing is to me -- and it is truly a graced avenue that God uses to fill and renew me! -- I have been in one of those moments in life where only silence and stillness could fill up the in-between times, those critical moments when we ponder what we are living

And there has been so much going on! 

Merely since my week-long silent retreat in early July, there has been so much...  Completing my cardiac rehab (woo hoo!); trips to connect with and celebrate milestones with family; a new Grand born!; pilgrimage to Guatemala for Blessed Stanley Rother's feast day; many doctor visits; a special visitor from Cuba; buying a new home (more on that later!); making time with the Grands -- you get the idea. 

I find that the older I get, the deeper I feel things and the easier it is to recognize how important, how life-altering each of our life moments really is--wether huge or quotidian, every-day life. 

Yet there is no substitute for time, for be-ing with God in stillness and silence. That is the one way, the only way, to really ingest this life as a grace and blessing from God. 

NOTE: all photos from our pilgrimage to Guatemala, and to Santiago Atitlán, where Blessed Stanley Rother was martyred. Want to know more about the first U.S. martyr? Check out my book, "The Shepherd Who Didn't Run: Blessed Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma" (OSV Books).