Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On Mary, the Holy Ghost, and Memorial Day

A salute and prayer for our brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that we may enjoy our freedom. "Greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends." ~ John 15:13

We had a very special weekend. On Friday, we pulled the kids out of school to celebrate a Solemn High Mass at St. Mary, Help of Christians in Aiken. Their parish is growing so they have a beautiful new church. The old one is gorgeous as well, including the little mission church, which is now a perpetual Adoration chapel. You could sense that sacredness as you walked by it and we all enjoyed a visit with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. But Mass ... oh, how lovely. Everything, from the art to the music to the liturgy just lifts you out of your world and heavenward. I wept tears of joy. There were 5 or 6 priests and at least 20 altar boys from various parishes. What a joyful time to share these memories. Later there was a reception by candlelight in the courtyard. We returned home tired and happy. My attention was mostly focused on the crucifix, right above the tabernacle. I noticed the inside of the doors have angels. Love that detail.

Bronze Virgin & Child by Gustave Dore
at the church in Aiken
Monsignor gave the homily on Mary,  Help of Christians and how this feast came to be. Pope Pius V called Christian armies to ask for Mary's intercession in stopping Islamic invasion of Christian Europe. This is the Battle of Lepanto. The course of history might well have been different if the Ottoman Empire had succeeded. Mary is our help. It is really amazing that 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ managed to spread the Gospel to every corner of the earth. Except for John, they all died a martyr's death. They died for a Person. For Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life: no man comes unto the Father but by Me." ~ John 14:6 And you know this is true because for 2,000 years emperors and empires have been trying to destroy Catholicism but it is of God. We have Jesus' Word for it. "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." ~ Matt 16:18 

The Romans crucified Jesus, but He gave us His mother from the Cross! He rose from the dead! He breathed upon the Apostles and gave them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive or retain sins. Saul persecuted the Christians but became the greatest evangelizer as St. Paul. The Christian persecution continued for over 300 years. There have been schisms and heresies but the Church remains. Napoleon, Stalin and others all tried to destroy the Catholic Church. They are gone but the Church remains. Over and over we see that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. We are the largest family on earth -- 1.2 billion big -- with the greatest diversity too! We are white, black, yellow, rich, poor, disabled, strong, weak, all of us sinners, trying to be saints.

Somehow all these things are tied up for me this weekend. The Church has given dignity to children, to women, to the disabled, to the marginalized, and in Jesus men have discovered their strength. They use it to defend the weak. I shall never forget our Memorial Day in Belgium, where so many young men gave up their lives so that we may walk free today. God bless them.

The Easter season ends Pentecost. Let the fire of God burn in you. Here is a video for your enjoyment with the music of Palestrina. Alleluia!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writing with Lots of Kids

I was probably more efficient with my writing when I wrote in between the cracks. Now, I can while away huge amounts of time reading, not that there's anything wrong with it, except of course, when I should be writing, I still feel a little pang of guilt. Aren't I a becoming a good Catholic? :)

Well, I don't have a lot of kids, but that doesn't stop me from giving advice.  Let's see. 1. Keep a notebook and pen handy. 2. Play with words. 3. Read this book. THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan. I saw this at a library sale and always a sucker for a good human interest story, picked it up. What a woman! Evelyn Ryan raised ten children and with her flair for words won contests that kept her family fed and clothed and housed.

Her husband, Kelly, was an alcoholic. She states in a letter, "the liquor bill has been a ruinous drain on my husband's paycheck. Drinking has wrecked his disposition and made study and homework next to impossible for our children." Yet she persevered. Kelly once accused her of "being too damned happy." Right. She had wit, wisdom, poetry and prose flowing as she ironed clothes. 

When her daughter Terry questions her about abandoning her promising career as a writer, this is what Evelyn says:

"I want you to know I don't regret any part of my life, including marrying Dad. I wouldn't trade any one of you kids for a whole illustrious career. Besides, without the ten of you, what would I do for material?"

On that same road trip (come hell or high water) Evelyn says, "There's such a thing as destiny ... Sometimes when your life seems most out of control, you know there's a direction. I don't mean you can't have free will -- in fact, that can be the most important part."

"So you were meant to have ten kids?" Terry asks.

"I feel that I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do in this life. I've never doubted it."


I am doing exactly what I'm meant to do. I've often lamented that I lost my faith, that had I not, I would probably have become a nun, but it looks like matrimony *is* my path to holiness. Maybe I would've been a terrible nun, picking fights with my fellow-sisters. Perhaps I had to have a falling away, a period (albeit too long) of darkness so that I could come back to the light. And how my children have brought me back. Every day they challenge me. And when they really try my patience, I'm fond of telling them, they're shortening my time in purgatory. Apparently, I'm shortening theirs as well :)  

Anyway, I recommend this book highly. It is very inspiring and joyful. And ... there's a movie!!!!! We are definitely going to rent this one.

Terry Ryan writes: My mother continued to write almost until the day she died, her spirit and sense of humor unflagging to the end. A week before her death, I lifted a book from a chair at her bedside, and a small handwritten poem fluttered to the floor. It contained precisely 25 words:

Every time I pass the church
I stop and make a visit
So when I'm carried in feet first
God won't say, "Who is it?"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

Today we celebrate a strange feast day because it frightened these shepherd children. Mary appeared to them and allowed them to have visions of hell and the crises to come in this world if we didn't mend our ways and turn to her Son. Always, always, she points the way to Christ.  She taught them a little prayer to say after each decade of the rosary, which we also say: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

I came across a most beautiful reflection from Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God (+1849), who was a Passionist priest and theologian on how to face the things that are coming:

Let us have confident recourse to the protection of Mary.... We are human; we are sinful. As human beings, hell is our enemy; as sinners, heaven is our enemy. The devil unjustly wants us damned; God justly wants us punished. Thus we have heaven and hell against us and we are in the middle, exposed to both the wrath of God and the cunning of the devil.

Do not worry, my brothers and sisters. In Mary, we have a defender against the anger of heaven and the fury of hell. She can disarm the justice of God and defeat the designs of the devil ...  She has more influence with God than the whole company of saints in heaven ...

And so, let us not forget we have a Mother in heaven who continually prays for us. Our Lord's first public miracle occurred at her request! "They have no wine!" she said. Somehow I'm not surprised that it was at a wedding, given that our blessed Lord refers to Himself as the Bridegroom. Mary is a most enigmatic creature: Daughter of the Father, Mother of God, Spouse of the Holy Spirit. It's clear I just have a teensy brain :) 

Here's a place with photos, miracles, prophecies and promises and all things related to Fatima. Enjoy this well-known Ave Maria


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Books in Verse and a Happy Mother's Day

I don't know how it happens but I find myself wrapped in books written in verse. I prefer prose. And I prefer poetry that isn't free-wheeling and loosey-goosey but more structured, but I wanted to mention an extraordinary book: LIKE WATER ON STONE by Dana Walrath. I'm not sure how I came across it or why I was compelled to pick it up because I knew I'd be heartbroken to read a story about genocide, especially in light of what's occurring in the Middle East, but the book is so beautifully written, so controlled, it somehow gave me strength to face what is coming and also helped me to remember all the other terrible stories I've read throughout the years of the 20th century. The Jewish Holocaust, Stalin and Mao, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, Rwanda, and the carnage that occurs daily in mother's wombs. We have lived through the worst period in history, I believe. And we cannot forget.

The story is in multiple viewpoints but a major narrator is Ardziv, an eagle. He begins:

Three young ones,
one black pot,
a single quill,
and a tuft of red wool
are enough to start
a new life
in a new land.
I know this is true
because I saw it.

I love this opening because it gives authority. "I saw it." And it gives away the ending so that you can hang on to this hope during the difficult times. You can hang on. This historical fiction with a hint of magic realism tells the story of an Armenian family and how some of them, the young ones, survive the genocide that occurred a hundred years ago. Each poem is a carefully crafted gem.

Most of the survivors are long dead and if their stories have survived, it's because their children and grandchildren have preserved them. Ms. Walrath is the granddaughter of a survivor. Thank you for writing this beautiful and haunting book that will stay with me a long time.
I do realize why books in verse can be so powerful. Some stories are too big and too emotional to be in prose. Poems are more like snapshots. It's like going through a photo album. LIKE WATER ON STONE was the BEST book in verse that I've read out of the several very good books in the batch, including BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, KARMA by Cathy Ostlere, and RED BUTTERFLY by Amy Sonnichsen. Each of these books were a joy to read. They were personal and gave me much food for thought, but none surpassed the craft of Ms. Walrath. Definitely a book to study.
I wish all mothers, both physical and spiritual, a happy Mother's Day, for the children you raise and wish you could have raised, for the sorrows and joys of motherhood. I leave you to the care of our Blessed Mother. Enjoy one of my favorite hymns to God's perfect creation -- Mary! Can you imagine making your own mother? Of course, she would be the most beautiful, most perfect creature of all. 

Friday, May 1, 2015


Jesus, Lily of the Valleys
Mary, Queen of May
Joseph, Patron of Laborers.
Pray for us.

A happy May day to you! We have birthdays, end-of-school, and the beginning of beach-time to celebrate. But first, time to finish some work! Here's where a little help from St. Joseph comes in very handy. 

Most of the pictures of the male saints tend to effeminate. But in my mind's eye, I picture St. Joseph to be big and strong. After all, he was a carpenter and would've had to carry beams of wood throughout Nazareth to build houses, just as His Son did. He was given the task to guard and protect Mary and Jesus, so I imagine him to be up to the task quite well. 

Although I am partial to old paintings, I fell in love with this modern painting above and bought it for our home. Love the very obvious foreshadowing. Below is a lovely prayer to St. Joseph the Worker, whose Feast Day we celebrate today. Although we grouse about the work we have to do at times, we are deeply grateful for it as well. This prayer is a wonderful reminder.