Saturday, July 4, 2015

happy 4th of July!

photo source here

God of all peoples and nations, 
you have called those who live in this land 
to pursue your vision of freedom, justice, 
and peace for all. Keep us faithful to your gifts, 
that we may use them for the world's good 
and the good of our own nation, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
                                   [from today's Morning Prayer]

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

if I open my hands... surrender and mercy

open hands by Joseph Gurney
“Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God. For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb… and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength.” 
~Book of the Prophet Isaiah 49: 4-5, 
today’s first reading 
on the Solemnity of John the Baptist

Have you ever poured yourself into a project (or a direction in life) that keeps getting harder and harder, but instead of lifting up your head to see if God is showing you a different way, a change in direction, you instead decide that the answer must be to simply try harder!?

Then one day, maybe years later, the bell goes off and it becomes as obvious and tangible as a hot cup of coffee… if I open my hands all the way, the Lord will take my hand and show me the way, a new way—His way.

Seems like a Camino lesson I have to keep re-learning.

Thank God He never gives up on me.

Not only that, but in God's eternal and abundant mercy, even that which I then come to consider useless and for nothing becomes glorious when I offer it back to God.

“It is you, O Lord, who are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, since my youth.
On you I have leaned from my birth,
From my mother’s womb you have been my help.
My hope has always been in you.”
~Psalm 71: 5-6, 
from today’s Morning Prayer

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Are you in Buffalo for the Catholic Media Conference? 

Join me tomorrow morning, Room 107, for Morning Prayer!

Monday, June 22, 2015

the beautiful mess, better than a Hallelujah!

“Beautiful, the mess we are… the honest cries of breaking hearts,
are better than a Hallelujah

It’s not a new song, but I invite you to listen and to pray with the lyrics to Amy Grant’s hit single, “Better than a Hallelujah”

God loves a lullaby
In a mother's tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

God loves the drunkard's cry
The soldier's plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

The tears of shame for what's been done
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

official video, "Better than a Hallelujah"

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This week I’m in Buffalo, New York, to attend the annual Catholic Media Conference. It’s my first time in the city, and I’m already enjoying the view from my room – such remarkable architecture, history. 

If these walls could talk… so many stories, life tales, peaks into distinct moments in history...

May we bring to Jesus our honest cries, the beautiful mess we are, today and everyday. Amen!

Monday, June 15, 2015

remembering Carrie, on the 2nd anniversary of her death

A month before writing to say a final goodbye, my friend Carrie called to ask me for a friend’s address. She had a baby gift to send the new mother.

It was vintage Carrie. In the midst of everything, she was still thinking of ways to share in and bring joy to others. And when I say “everything,” I mean in the midst of cancer treatments, doctor appointments, pain management, and taking care of her family.

 No matter how dark things got or how much pain she was in, Carrie’s messages always included praise and thanksgiving for the God who gave her two amazing children—after medical experts told her in no uncertain terms that she would never have any. She called them her “miracle babies.”

When I hear people talk about fighting cancer, it is always Carrie who comes to mind. She fought that battle with all her might, all the way until the end. If that meant painful procedures that may or may not offer cure, but instead offered a way to extend her time on earth being present to her family, Carrie always said yes.

Carrie believed in and relied on the power of prayer. Not in the sense of telling God what to do, but always with a powerful balance: her complete trust in God’s Divine Providence—and a healthy dose of petitions straight from her humble mother heart.

Her prayers of petition were always grounded on her family. Carrie had no problem reminding God that she had to stick around longer because her son and daughter were simply too young to be without a mother.

I will never forget Carrie describing the gift of her scars… the marks on her body, she explained, was her road map, “a map I hope leads me to eternal life!”

In reality, Carrie and her scars were, and continue to be, a light post leading all of us to heaven. And I have no doubt that her suffering prayers on behalf of others carried many a painful journey, always reminding us of the ways God has already begun answering our prayers.

A week before her death Carrie wrote, once again, asking for prayers—always first for her family, and this time, for a holy death.

They are the most beautiful, loving, joyful children in the world, and
their own mother had to pierce their hearts. Above all else, I ask that
you pray for my Matteo and Francesca. Stefano is also devastated, of
course. My prayer is that the end will be peaceful and not panicked… If possible, I'd like to die at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Evanston. My children were born there, half the staff knows me, and I have felt that Francis was always with me in a special way--I was baptized by the Franciscans, wrote a book for a Franciscan, my spiritual director was a Franciscan, I was married at San Damiano in Assisi, and had my children at St. Francis.  I just think it would help to present a sense of peace for my children. I don't know if they would ever be able to handle mommy dying at home.

As the bilirubin on the liver function rises, I'm told my brain will
begin to get fuzzy. As funny as it might be to get emails from me in
that state, I think this is the time to say goodbye.

I thank you all for you the support we've shared, for allowing the occasional vent, for the encouragement, for the beautiful published works that have come out of sifting ideas, and for your friendship.

Thank you, and I love you,

Carrie and Francesca rough housing with my first grandchild, Elenita

Thursday, June 11, 2015

walking the Camino, why two is better than one

Twelve years ago, on the great feast of Corpus Christi, my dear Pat and I walked into Santiago de Compostela—finally completing our pilgrimage across northern Spain.

I remember standing in the plaza in front of the cathedral, in awe at ourselves, feeling more than a little disbelief that we had made it. 

For weeks that felt like years, Pat and I walked the Camino de Santiago… stepping beyond the pain, exhaustion, heat, blisters, and swollen knees—and we did it together.

Not to take away from the many friends – and even my husband – who have walked part or all of the Camino by themselves, but much as it is true in life, there’s a level of surrender to the Camino that can only be experienced when you commit yourself to another person. 

Perhaps that's why Jesus sent out his disciples two by two...

When you are walking with someone day in and day out for weeks it doesn’t matter how close you are or how much you like each other because, in the end, it will be both a beautiful encounter, and a downright grueling challenge!

When they hurt, you hurt. When they need a break, you break. When you are discouraged and pissy, they feel discouraged and pissy. If walking with blisters makes you cry, they cry with you. When the heat overwhelms them, you both stop walking.

Looking back at that month of June and what we accomplished together twelve years ago, it was no coincidence that Pat and I would arrive in Santiago and kneel at the altar together on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Like the oneness we experienced as we held up and encouraged each other day by day, every time Pat and I received the Eucharist together—something we were blessed to do almost every day of our Camino pilgrimage—we also became one in and with Him who is our strength and our Lord.

In a very real way, it was our food for the journey—and what held us together.  

Like the Camino itself, the Sunday that Pat and I walked into the Santiago de Compostela cathedral together was one of the most Eucharistic experiences of my life, one that has become even more significant now that Pat is waiting for me at the heavenly banquet.

Pat's tombstone, with the final Camino shell pointing down