Bethany Mom’s Retreat Yet Once Again, Seeing to Believe

Two weekends ago I was privileged to spend a couple of days at the beautiful Bethany Retreat House with a group of moms from St. Cecilia Academy and Overbrook School. We could not be more fortunate to have the Dominican Sisters teach our children as well as allow us the opportunities to spend time at their Retreat House. Since I was there two years ago, they have finished the new Chapel and Dining Room; both lovely, needless to say. It is a peaceful place to pause from our serving and sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

Now that formalities are over, let’s get to the meat of the subject. I am constantly aware of the “signs” that I believe are sent from above to allow us to draw closer to Christ. Not like weird signs and wonders, but simple occurrences that pop up in front of our faces that make us just say, “Thank you Jesus, I do believe.” Ya know. Like, “walk with eyes wide open and receive all He has to give” type of gifts. Our retreat topic was “The Joy of Love – the Family as Icon of the Holy Trinity” given by Fr. Albert Trudel, O.P. and I have to admit was not what drew me to the weekend. And yet, as with most things those Dominicans pull me into, the talks were awesome. Fr. Trudel gently tied together an icon (a window to the soul), Rublev’s Hospitality of Abraham, also known as the Trinity, with the love we share with our children and our husband and the love of the Trinity. “As the Three Persons of the Trinity mirror the love of one another, so husband and wife and children should mirror love and help one another toward Heaven.” “Love is willing the good of the other as if it is our own.”  (Aquinas)

As I knelt in the Chapel, I noticed the image in the picture above behind the Tabernacle. If we look beyond the cross, to the shadows, we see on the top the clear image of a triangle and behind the corpus the images of three people on crosses. Is this lighting purposeful? The image on the left of the Son is clearer than the image on the right. Could be the good and bad thieves. Could be the Father (whom we see more clearly) and the Holy Spirit (He’s there but more difficult to make out the figure). I meditated on our lives with the Trinity, us two (husband and wife) with God in our lives. And then, us two as one, with our children and God in our lives. The reading this past week explaining, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…This is a great mystery…” I meditated on Fr.’s words, “we find our life by giving it away.”

Now, I’m just saying, that when we participated in Eucharistic Adoration Saturday night, the shadows behind the crucifix were all gone except for one. For me, in my thoughts, it was clear that in the Eucharist, we are all one, just as the Trinity was joined as One Body inside that Monstrance. There is no separation between the Father and the Son and the Spirit as there should be no separation in the family. We are together in love. And yes, this is a great mystery.

Visiting, Taking Time, Shining Light

Funny how things happen. I fully intended on using this picture of the display in St. Mary’s for a blog about my book, Visiting Mary, because quite frankly the summer is a great time to take the opportunity while on vacation to visit the many Shrines and Grottoes that we have in the U.S. But I became immediately distracted with the idea that the picture I took was just too busy looking, too distracting. Which, coupled with the Gospel readings this week, prompted me to realize how easily we are distracted by the busy background of our lives. If you’re like me, you may take the readings from Scripture and try to focus on sharing God’s message throughout your day, whether to your family or your friends or your co-workers or complete strangers. We try to take what we believe His message is for the day and live it out, shine the light, not leaving it “under a bushel basket”. We try to live the Commandments and the Beatitudes. We may leave our morning prayer time or morning Mass and think, “I’ve got this. I can do this all day long. I am focused and today I will simply be kind to everyone I meet. I will love God and my neighbor.” Then, bam. Life causes distractions. Our focus is blurred by the busy background. We can no longer see what’s really important. The next morning we start all over again. And the next morning, again. And little by little we realize that life is just busy. The times when we cannot see Jesus or His Mother against all the background “stuff” is the time when we probably need them the most. The times when we cannot hear Jesus or His Mother against all the noise is the time when they probably should be heard the loudest. If we stay focused, we can see light. If we listen, we can speak truth. If we keep Him in our hearts all day, we can truly love. The ways of this world keep us hopping from one “thing” to the next. The ways of God keep us centered on what’s important.

P.S.The OT reading today was Elijah trying to find God in the wind and the earthquakes but only finding Him in a whisper. At some point today, or maybe all day, may we quiet ourselves enough to hear His message in the whispers. And the message before the Gospel reading,
” Alleluia, alleluia. Shine like lights on the world, as you hold on to the word of life. Alleluia, alleluia.” AMEN.

Go To Your Room

“Go to your ROOM!” I can tell you that I heard these words as a young girl many times a week. Maybe even daily. Let’s just say that I enjoyed life to the fullest. As number 6 of 8 children, maybe I felt it was my duty to give the parents a shot in the arm. You know, add a little spark. Grease the rusty wheels. But that can’t be right because my brothers and sisters before me spent equal amounts of time in their rooms too. My parents were hopping from beginning to end. No rest for the weary shall we say. But they rarely complained and seemed to have a pretty good time along the way. 

In the past couple of weeks, I have done four radio interviews to promote “Talking to God” and in each the question has been asked, “In your book you suggest ‘making a private chapel in your heart’. How do you go about that?” And actually, I use a quote from the 17thcentury Carmelite, Brother Lawrence that suggests we should “make a private chapel in our heart where we can retire from time to time to commune with Him, peacefully, humbly, lovingly; everyone is capable of these intimate conversations with God, some more, others less; he knows what we can do.”  

As I sat in the Chapel this morning and for the past several weeks, I have pondered this idea. Throughout my day, I try to have this place within myself where I can go when I feel like screaming. I try to have this place where I can retreat when I am tempted. We all can have this same place where we can go when our world is ridiculous. We have a place to go instead of jumping in on the office gossip or laughing at an improper joke. This morning as I thought about this place that everyone seems to be interested in, I pictured the many times when I was sent to my room before I got into something that I could not get out of. I thought about the time when I was sent to the library in High School before I got in-school suspension with my friends. I thought of Jesus telling me that the same elements in the Chapel where I was sitting could be in my heart where I could retreat right before I made a bad choice. I envisioned Jesus telling me, “Go to your Heart room” to contemplate my actions or reactions. 

I ran back up to our Chapel to take the above picture and I was reminded of this verse. “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Luke 2:19  I’d say that we’re in good company as we work on “making a private chapel in (y)our heart(s).”

How about it for you? Have you ever thought about making a private Chapel in your Heart? Is it just a quiet place for prayer as mine has been in the past or is it a retreat from the ridiculous or is it a safe place to avoid sin? Is it a place where you can “retire”just as the Chapel is near the Church? Something to ponder I guess. I sure have been asked a lot.

Barely Squeezing By

Last week as I was headed into the Chapel, the automatic door was closing and I turned slightly sideways and squeezed in, not having to push the door back open. I immediately thought, that is so me, just barely squeezing by in my spiritual life.
Mass was about to start and I didn’t have time to read my Magnificat so I squeezed in the morning reading and the meditation on the Gospel during the short pauses of the Mass and some of the parts of the Homily. (Don’t tell Fr.)
I’ve been thinking about my lack of organization lately, at home and at work. I blame it all on being out of town for a week and having a difficult time catching up but truth is it’s more about goofin’ off. Not that there’s anything wrong with a little goofy around but let’s face it, it can cause us to get behind and stay behind and we don’t want to be continually late with God. Um, I can picture the Gates just closing as I sprint to squeeze into my Eternal Reward, or not. And why? Because I didn’t take His Words seriously? Because I was goofin’ off instead of working? Because I didn’t take time to listen?
I’m pretty sure that I’m barely squeezing by because I’m doing more talking than listening. That’s how it was the other day. I was outside the Chapel talking to a friend and her children before school, ya know, entertaining them with my mouth, and I missed my time for spiritual reading. Missed it. So often, I kneel down in there and start all my yammerin and I hear Him say clearly, “Shhhhh! Listen! I have the words of Everlasting Life.” How more direct can that be?
For the most part, my dad gets to the Chapel for morning prayer about two hours before Mass. He’s passed that example on to us just as he and my mom have of going to daily Mass. They both give time to Jesus in the morning and in return He gives them time to get all that needs done in a day, done. Now why in the world am I still just squeezing by? Fifty some years of hand me downs and I am still goofin’ off. Lord, help me to do more than just squeeze by in this life. Teach me to close my mouth and open my heart and get where You want me to be.