Monday, August 24, 2015

may we not be painted Christians

“Nathaniel said to him,
Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ 
Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”
                                                               ~Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 46

“On the Cross, Jesus felt the weight of death, the weight of sin, but he gave himself over to the Father entirely, and he forgave. He barely spoke, but he gave the gift of life… Christ ‘beats’ us in love; the martyrs imitated him in love until the very end… We implore the intercession of the martyrs, that we may be concrete Christians, Christians in deeds and not just in words, that we may not be mediocre Christians, Christians painted in a superficial coating of Christianity without substance—they weren’t painted, they were Christians until the end. We ask [the martyrs] for help in keeping our faith firm, that even throughout our difficulties we may nourish hope and foster brotherhood and solidarity.”
                                     ~Pope Francis, Vatican Radio (10-14-13)

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From my upcoming biography of Father Stanley Rother, Oklahoma martyr:

There was nothing “painted” in Stanley, the young man who chose to follow Jesus as his disciple; Stanley, the seminarian who endured difficulties, even failure, yet persevered in his calling to the priesthood; Father Stanley, the young parish priest who put aside his fears, courageously agreeing to serve the People of God in Oklahoma’s mission in Guatemala; Father Stanley, the man who struggled to pass Latin and learn Spanish, yet succeeded in learning the rare and challenging Mayan dialect of his Tz’utujil parishioners.

Father Stanley, the Okarche farmer who believed plowing the fields manually next to the Tz’utujil farmers was part of his vocation as a minister of God’s love. And finally, Father Stanley, the shepherd who chose to face death rather than abandon his flock—the shepherd who didn’t run.

It is my hope and my prayer that in the telling of Father Stanley’s story I succeed in introducing you to one person who loved “to the extreme limit,” as Pope Francis described, in making God’s presence real, tangible to the people in his life—by living, loving, and being himself completely.

To paraphrase the question asked in the Gospels by incredulous people about Jesus of Nazareth: can anything good come from Okarche, Oklahoma? I invite you to come and see.

If you'd like to read some of my previous blog posts about Father Stanley Rother, see here and also here.

And to pre-order a copy of my book, “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma,” click here!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

beer, birthdays and butt paste

Pat walking the Camino de Santiago, 2003

Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that.
You cannot hold onto the old, all the while declaring that you want something new.
The old will defy the new;
The old will deny the new;
The old will decry the new.
There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.

                         ~Neale Donald Walsch

I may not always know my place in this world. Things are ever changing.
But in counting gifts I can always find my place in God.  

In His heart… He alone holds me as He continues to enfold me in His love.

                        ~Mary Anne Morgan [see her wonderful blog and photography here]

My internal clock is extremely connected to the academic year cycle.

The combination of living with teachers my entire life and also having a birthday in mid-August makes this time of year feel like the beginning of a new year—much more so than January 1st!

This summer has felt jam packed with festivities, family gatherings, wonderful visits with old friends and with far away family, and the excitement of working on final details associated with my new book.  You can read more about my Father Stanley Rother biography here!

I confess that it’s been a challenge for me, physically, to keep up with this level of activity—no matter how good, how fun or how enjoyable.

Emotionally, it has been simply too much for me to ingest.

For example, as weird as it sounds, I will find myself in the middle of a fun, joyful gathering, and a part of me feels numb… just going through the motions, taking care of what needs to be done.

Or worse yet, I’ll have my entire crew here, in our home… all my wonderful and fun adult children, and our five amazing grandchildren (with one more baby girl on the way!) – and I notice that I have an overwhelming wave of emotion that I can only describe as loneliness.

It’s enough to make me feel like I’m crazy, or at the very least, ungrateful! 

But on this my birthday week – I made the decision to stop berating myself and simply acknowledged that I am tired, and that it’s okay that I feel tired. 

And I realized that what I am feeling is the weight of change—and the cost of my desire to be truly present to the people in my life.

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                                       We live life forward, but we understand it backward
                ~Søren Kierkegaard

Friday, July 31, 2015

the kind of writing I want to do when I grow up

                             Crabapple holding in arms

what almost has
selvage and leaf-lavish open.

Pumpkin seed in the hand,
lick the salt after.
What remains, after.
Bowl fill with woodpecker’s shavings of cedar.

Door of the beak, release attic.
Voice remain fragrant.
Love hold the lungs again open.

By the bed, here.
By silence and whiteness,
by staying.
Carved scent of orange-oil, open.

By rise of the woodpecker’s question,
of crabapple fruiting,
clasp now this room that is given.

Open with flood what is given,
once again fragrant and here.

       ~Jane Hirshfield,                                                  
“Spell to Be Said After Illness”                        

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I’m a big fan of Heather King’s writing.

I’ve mentioned this exceptional Catholic writer before, but just in case you missed it… check out her blog here, and go here to read about Redeemed, my introduction into Heather’s writing.

It’s not just Heather’s quality of thought and of writing—which is, indeed, brilliant.

Perhaps what I enjoy and appreciate the most is Heather’s ability to take an intellectual concept (or an academic idea, or a conceptual artistic expression), and in genuine Ignatian fashion, deliberately and honestly explore, question and challenge herself -- until she discovers and is able to describe God’s presence there.

It’s the type of writing I want to do when I grow up.

It seems fitting, therefore, on this feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, to connect once again with Heather’s blog, a place where I so frequently feel invited –and provoked – to experience God, day by day.

From one of her blog posts last week:

"There is a custom which I have met only in Thailand, whereby a person composes a small cookbook before her or his death, so that it can be distributed as a keepsake to the mourners attending the funeral.

The recipes, typically no more than a score, are likely to be those which the deceased especially enjoyed. They need not have been composed or used by the deceased, but often are. Sometimes they incorporate little anecdotes and attributions. . . .

The idea is attractive. With what better keepsake could one depart from a funeral? What other would equally well keep one's memory green among friends?”

“Funeral Cookbooks” by Alan Davidson,

Check out the rest of her blog post—and Heather’s personal recipe for Tuscan Rosemary and Pine Nut Bars—here!

What an interesting idea, to create a keepsake of recipes for the mourners at my funeral. What would you put in yours? 

My Funeral Cookbook would definitely have to begin with a good paella recipe... and plátanos maduros... and Cuban rum cake...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

self-care is not selfish

One of the scribes... asked him, 'Which is the first of all the commandments?' Jesus replied... 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. 
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”~Gospel of Mark, chapter 12: 28-31
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“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet. “
~Mahatma Gandhi
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One of the unforeseen blessings of my autoimmune condition has been the necessity to learn how to focus on myself—my needs, my wants, and what I can and need to do to take care of myself.

I’ve been in the midst of a flare up recently, and everything has slowed once again because of necessity… including writing for the blog!

Today I gave myself permission to stay in my pajamas—and to read and write in bed.

I have always been a caretaker of one sort or another. It’s a role I play well, and one that is very familiar and comfortable for me. Coupled with my innate intuition, even as a young child, I instinctively knew how to evaluate the needs of those around me and jump in to take care of them.

Imagine my surprise when I first realized that, not only is caretaking not necessarily a positive trait, it can also be a form of self-destructiveness!

Please don’t misquote me. I’m not advocating here any sort of self-absorption or narcissistic, obsessive behavior. Far from it.  Yet for me and others like me (you know who you are!!), thinking about self is something we have to do consciously, deliberately.

It’s like the flight attendant points out in every flight… you have to put the mask on yourself first, before you have the oxygen and wherewithal to put the mask on those around you.

In truth, I am still a caretaker, and I assume I will always be one. But I’m getting better at learning to notice when I carry caretaking to the extreme—and to the exclusion of self-love, self-awareness and self-care.

And as soon as I do, I lay that, too, at the foot of the cross

Thursday, July 16, 2015

word of the day: Carmel!

There are certain geographical places where the veil between heaven and earth is so thin, that my spirit experiences with certainty and clarity the holy untouchable. Without words or logical explanations, the presence of God wraps around me like a warm blanket.

Mount Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean, is such a place for me. 

Elijah's Grotto, within the Church of Stella Maris 
statue of Elijah
The first time I visited the Church of Stella Maris in Haifa, I felt like a character in an old Charleston Heston Bible movie.  There I stood, where hermits and pilgrims have walked for over 3,000 years. There I knelt, praying at the cave where the prophet Elijah built an altar to God.

According to the Book of Kings, that altar on Mount Carmel ["Carmel" means "garden" in Hebrew] --is where Elijah challenged 450 Baal prophets to declare whose god was truly in control. Historians point out that the mountain has been a sacred, holy place for believers since at least 15th Century B.C.!

And most importantly, it is at this specific site, Elijah’s grotto, where the Carmelite Order was founded in the year 1210.

I have always felt a special, unique connection to the Carmelite saints, in a particular way with St.Therese of Lisieux, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and of course, Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. [Note: to read more about Edith Stein, I recommend this great biography! :-)  ]

On this feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, may the holy saints of Carmel pray for us!

[this is a repost from July 16, 2014]