Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Word

My family will get a big laugh out of this. When I was little, everybody called me a chatterbox. And that nickname has persisted even though I am a quiet person. But there is also a desire to talk, to be heard, and in writing, I have discovered an outlet. But the writing itself can be very distracting from what I need to hear. I've had a couple of days alone to ponder and pray what it is I need to work on this year and it happens to be silence. Maybe I will fail spectacularly, but I have to try to cultivate more silence so that I can listen better. Listen to the still, small voice of God within my heart. Listen to the stories. Listen to my husband, children and friends. Listen.

Won't you share what you'd like to work on in the New Year?

Look at these furry friends of mine. How silent and alert they are, listening. I have much to learn from them.

I love this hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

In previous years, my words have been: Trust; Courage & Clarity; Patience; Fiat. It's good to remember the progress I've been making over the past few years, as well as the pitfalls. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Blessings

Adoration of the Shepherds by Ludovico Cardi, 1599 AD
I will never forget our first Midnight Mass at St. Jude's -- snowy outside, candlelight inside, a cantor singing O Holy Night. The children were sleepy but excited to be woken up to go to Christ's Mass. And here at Stella Maris, we always celebrate with a High Mass. Our Advent is spent in preparation for this most Holy Hour.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
 in which the Son of God was born
 of the most pure Virgin Mary,
 at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God,
 to hear my prayers and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother.
Here's a beautiful reflection from Dom Prosper on the Midnight Mass. And I leave you with Byrd's Gloria!

Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle is a beautiful book to read during Advent when you are quietly waiting and assessing your writing life. L’Engle makes me question my motives. Am I being honest? I don’t just write for love. I also write for money. Am I listening and getting out of my own way? Yes and no, but I need to do this better. Spend more time in quiet and prayer. I love how Madeleine equates the sense of writing in flow to the same as when in contemplative prayer. I never made the connection before but it can be a similar state. Do I want the children to see this? What a wonderful question. Sometimes when I look at movie previews and I see something isn’t appropriate for our children, I realize it isn’t appropriate for me either. I love that about her books. They are for everybody. And this book in particular is a book for all Christian writers as she explores the relationship between faith and art. It is a book I’ve savored and marked up and I suspect I will come to it again and again.

Without further ado, let me share a few quotes to whet your appetite:

I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love.”

We are all asked to do more than we can do.”

The child is aware of unlimited potential, and this munificence is one the joys of creativity.”

Creativity opens us to revelation.”

So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound so that it will not forget.”

Time is to be treasured, worked with, never ignored.”

Choice is an essential ingredient of fiction and drama.”

What if – the basis of all story.”

My stories affect my Christianity, restore me, shake me by the scruff of the neck, and pull this straying sinner into an awed faith.”

Remember – the root word of humble and human is the same: humus: earth. We are dust. We are created; it is God who made us and not we ourselves. But we were made to be co-creators with our Maker.”

This book reminds me why I write. Writing and family life brought me to Jesus, and when you possess this great Treasure, you cannot keep it to yourself. My thoughts echo L’Engle’s: “If I understand the Gospel, it tells us that we are to spread the Good News to all four corners of the world, not limiting the giving of light to people who already have seen the light. If my stories are incomprehensible to Jews or Muslims or Taoists, then I have failed as a Christian writer. We draw people to Christ … by showing them the light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Beauty, then, will save the world.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the review copy. Cross-posting this review to Amazon.

Friday, December 9, 2016

On Waiting and Longing and Our Heart's Desire

This beautiful poem by Frances Chesterton, copied from the front pages of her biography by Nancy Carpentier Brown conveys so much of the Advent longing.

How far is it to Bethlehem? 
Not very far. 
Shall we find the stable room 
Lit by a star?

Can we see the little Child? 
Is He within? 
If we lift the wooden latch 
May we go in? 

May we stroke the creatures there 
Oxen or sheep? 
May we peep like them and see 
Jesus asleep?

If we touch His tiny hand 
Will He awake? 
Will He know we’ve come so far 
Just for His sake?

Great kings have precious gifts 
And we have naught 
Little smiles and little tears 
Are all we brought.

For all weary children 
Heaven must weep 
Here, on His bed of straw 
Sleep, children, sleep.

God in His mother’s arms 
Babes in the byre 
Sleep, as they sleep who find

Their heart’s desire.

Wearing my mother's jacket!
It is fitting that I came across this yesterday because last night, after Mass, a friend I'd not spoken to in a while asked whether I was expecting. I wish! I let her know it was a "food baby." However, I also let her know that we've been longing for more children for quite some time, but didn't think it was going to happen given that I'm nearly 52. I mean, I pray for menopause on a regular basis now :) Why yes, I can hold completely contradictory thoughts in my head all at once.    

I know so many of us who struggle with infertility, who are waiting, expectant of the miracle of life. But Frances, also suffering from infertility, in How Far is it to Bethlehem perfectly captures the deepest desires of our human heart.  

This Advent, I am baking and writing and praying/practicing a beautiful William Byrd Mass for four voices and thinking of my own heart's desire -- the Babe. 

I pray you will have a most blessed Advent!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Christmas Books for Kids

For those who know me, you know I'm a sucker for letters. So look at these two beautiful Christmas books.

Christmas Love Letters from God: Bible Stories written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Rachel Clowes traces the Christmas story beginning with Isaiah's prophecy and ending with the visit from the Three Wise Men. There are seven stories altogether in a mix of prose and poetry, followed by a love letter from God (lift the flap). What I loved about this book is how much it promotes intimacy with God. Ms. Nellist emphasizes God's promises and His unconditional love. The artwork has a warm and textural feel to it and children will enjoy reading this multiple times. Thanks to BookLook for providing a review copy.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Kentucky written by Evelyn B. Christensen and illustrated by Kent Culotta is a wonderful adaptation of the traditional song. Martin is visiting his cousin Marybeth in Kentucky and each day she gives him a gift of an experience. Martin writes home about it. The letters are both fun and informative and the illustrations capture the spirit. Did you know Abe Lincoln was born there? Or that the world's longest cave system is Mammoth Cave in KY? Reading Martin's letters will have you homesick for the Bluegrass state. 

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ev five years ago when we were moving from WA and want to go back for a visit. And it's only after reading this book that I remembered that years and years ago, when we lived in Cincinnati, OH, my father took us to Cumberland Falls and we ate Kentucky Fried Chicken. So thank you, dear friend.

Parents of elementary school children, take note. She is a puzzle-master extraordinaire and has numerous math puzzle books for children. Check them out on Amazon or her website.

And here's a third book that is pure fun. The Twelve Days of Christmas: Starring the Chickens by Janet Lee Carey and illustrated by Molly Blaisdell is a fun romp with chickens. Carey's words had me singing and the chicken doodles cracked me up. I think a book like this can inspire kids to make their own 12 days of Christmas stories. Thanks to the illustrator for providing me with a review copy.

Finally, here's a picture of some of my bounty!!! I do love this time of the year to splurge on books not just for myself but for the people I love. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Notes from the Marian Eucharistic Conference: Part III

These are the last of my notes from the Marian Eucharistic conference. I'm sorry if some of these notes offend my Protestant friends. But not sorry for saying what we Catholics believe. 
Tim Staples comes from a Baptist and Pentecostal background and is a walking encyclopedia of all things Catholic and Protestant. He is the director of apologetics and evangelism at Catholic Answers. He explained that “once saved, always saved” is a very dangerous heresy. Many Protestants believe that salvation is by faith alone. Luther taught that we are justified by faith alone. You can murder, rape, pillage all you want and it shall all be forgiven. This leads to presumption. He also believed in predestination. That means some souls are destined for hell. And that just doesn’t make sense. That’d be a monster God. Much confusion arises because God knows all. However, He gives us free will. That means that we are free to reject Him. All through the Bible, we see that we’re given a choice. In Genesis, don’t eat of the fruit of tree of knowledge; in Deuteronomy, choose life or death; in Revelations, knock – you get to open the door.
Gospel of Suffering

Jesus didn’t suffer and die for us so that we don’t have to. Our suffering is salvific when we join it to His suffering. We must cooperate with His grace. His entire life was redemptive. His suffering and death on the Cross is the pinnacle. No redemption without the shedding of blood. At the Incarnation, He became poor. He’s redeeming us even in the womb. His ministry was redeeming because we received His Word. He was crucified for our sins. When He said, “It is finished” it doesn’t mean we have nothing to do. His work on earth is finished. He is redeeming us even now, through the Eucharist. Allow Christ to live in us.

In the Assembly of God Church where Tim was a youth minister, there was thinking that Jesus did it all; I don’t have to do anything but believe. By His stripes we are healed. So there ought to be no sickness or suffering. He recounted a story of a young woman who nearly died because she was diabetic and believed Jesus would heal her. Taking insulin would be a lack of faith. This is dangerous thinking.

Beware of false Gospels. Jesus Himself told us to pick up our cross and carry it. His life in us only comes through suffering.

Mary, Mother of God

Tim also gave a lecture on Mary’s involvement in our salvation. Without Mary, there is no Jesus. Not only did she freely give her Fiat “Be it done unto me according to your word” but she stands at the foot of the Cross, where Jesus gives her to us as He was dying. “Behold your mother!” What a gift!!! This is why we honor and venerate her (note: not worship her).

Mary’s role does not cease after the Annunciation (many Protestants think *all* she does is bring Jesus to us). Her role is ongoing. At the wedding feast at Cana, she tells her Son, “They have no wine.” Jesus rebukes her. “Woman, my hour has not yet come.” But she tells the servants, “Do whatever He says.” Yup! Get ready for a miracle.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is united with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  

Catholics and the Culture Wars

Catholic Answers put out a voter’s guide with the 5 non-negotiables but had to scramble to add a 6th one – thanks to Obama – on religious freedom. On the Right to Life, 25 major Christian denominations say abortion is OK. Sometimes you have to fight other Christians. It's that bad. We are living in a time of crisis. Stand up for Jesus, no matter what the govt. says. We alone possess the fullness of the Gospel. Our institutions have been infiltrated. But we have Jesus's promise that not even the gates of hell will prevail. So be not afraid. Engage with the world. Let Jesus shine through. It is essential when it’s a matter of salvation of souls.

Tom Peterson

Advertising Exec. who simplified his life and founded Catholics Come Home. The sad fact is that 75% of Catholics leave the Church by age 23. We need to use our talents to bring souls to Christ. Pray them back to Church. This takes patience and trustful surrender to God. Do what love requires. The hope you need is found in Jesus and His Church. 

When you are in sin, you live a life of duplicity (two-faced). Perhaps you are addicted to certain sins and don't want to change. But when you go to confession, you receive the graces necessary to change.

Jesus’s last mandate was “go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Evangelicals have passion. They invite people. They pray over them. Learn from them. Don’t be lukewarm. Invite people to Church. Be persistent. Have patience and fortitude. People are busy so it can take 3-7 times before a person might take you up on that offer. It is a sin of omission to not talk about Jesus. In a time of despair, speaking the Truth is a revolutionary act. Pilot light of baptism is still on. Fan the flames.
Remember, 1st century Christians were fed to the lions. We have it easy, still.  Our world needs Catholic heroes.

Bishop Guglielmone offered Sunday Vigil Mass. The readings were on Maccabees and on the Resurrection. Life after death: Life doesn't end but merely changes. After death, there are two possibilities. (1) Total union with God, in perfect harmony, which we call Heaven or (2) total absence of God, which we understand as hell.
Since many of us are not ready to be in total union with God, we have purgatory. But it is on the road to heaven.

What is necessary? Love God above all things. How can you achieve total intimacy with God in heaven without having practice here on earth? Love your neighbor as yourself. How? At the end of Matthew's Gospel we have the answer. "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you did to me." To love is to will the good of the other. And the family is where we learn to love. People who cannot see Jesus in a baby or the elderly are in danger of killing them because they are an inconvenience, or because they are not productive. And this is exactly what is happening in our culture. We must allow God to change our hearts.

This was the weekend before the election and it was such a blessing to have our Catholic faith strengthened. If only we could be like Poland and proclaim Christ as King!



Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving and Local Beauty

I hope everybody is having a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. It was so warm that we set up tables out on the porch. We're still enjoying the leftovers and beautiful weather.

Some local scenery ... past the library, across the marsh is a beautiful little cemetery. A peaceful place to pray.

Memento mori.







Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sisters are the Best

My sister and her husband came for a weekend visit. What fun!!! She hadn't seen my kids in over 5 yrs and they've grown quite a bit. They enjoyed the Lowcountry and have promised to come for a longer visit the next time.

We walked through the Holy Door of Mercy at St. John the Baptist Cathedral downtown and then enjoyed a long stroll, stopping at art galleries and sampling the local wares. Pecan pralines are the best. 






We had good food to eat and as promised my sister helped to eat the fresh clementines :) She's taken some seeds to plant in her own garden.


And the visit ended perfectly with Sunday eve Mass at our beloved Stella Maris. Come back soon!!!