Make Believe…Real

When they are young and life is a zoo, we cannot wait for our children to grow up. When they are grown and ready to venture out on their own, we wish they were still our babies. There is truth and wisdom in truly enjoying every moment with our children. There is truth and beauty in allowing the good and the bad to be remembered, to be time spent together well. Before we turn around, what seems like just playing dress up turns into the real thing.

This past weekend my oldest daughter had the final fitting of her wedding dress. Wow. She’s just incredibly beautiful. She had her trial run with hair and makeup on Saturday and when I saw her after work, again, wow. On Sunday, as I watched her youngest sister play volleyball and the second oldest coach volleyball, I listened as she and her father were trying to decide upon a song to dance to after the wedding. I’m cheering for each point as tears fill my eyes. I’m happy to be in a large arena sitting alone, my emotions bouncing off the walls. I’m happy to be multi-tasking as I have for years upon years, enjoying each and every moment that I could with my children while juggling work inside and outside our home. It’s funny but I think the harder we had to work to make it to many of our children’s events, to spend time with them, to take care of them when they were sick or to arrange for them to be taken care of, the more all those times mean to us. My children are keenly aware of all of those moments. They seem to take nothing for granted.

Ya see, my mother took them to choose hats and furs and to drink tea that day. And that night, they enjoyed the day all over again by sharing it with us. I guess my point is that time does fly by and we may feel we miss some moments but what’s important is that we make the most of those that God gives for us to be together and that our children know the importance of being there for one another. Seems like yesterday when this bride-to-be and her maid-of-honor were playing dress up together and in a little over two weeks the one will be making sure the other one’s veil and dress are laid out perfectly to walk down the aisle. Ya know, we have to live life no matter how fleeting, no matter how hectic, one event at a time, one moment, one diaper, one game, one dance, one wedding at a time. It may not be all make believe and dress up in fur coats and hats, but it is a gift. A real gift. And I could not be more grateful to God for all of it. The make believe and the real.

Perfection, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, Faith

When the rising sun hits the outside wall of the church Chapel just perfectly, the beautiful stain glass window is projected through the Chapel doors onto the wall behind the altar. As we can see, the image clearly tells the story of life and death, the beginning and the end, and yet it tells so much more. Mary and her Son are sectioned off from the angels and yet their lives are fully supported and heralded by the Holy Spirit and the angels. Jesus’ left arm seems to disappear into His Mother’s garment. They are in perfect communion, in sinc. Their lives are as one from the beginning to the end, guided by the Holy Spirit as they follow the will of the Father. “Yes Lord.” “Thy will be done.” The perfect answers. The perfect examples. Plastered on the front wall because of perfect timing. 

In our weakness, they are our strength. Their love holds us up during our times of crisis. They want us to be in sinc with them as they give their entire lives in obedience to the Father. “By the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit”, they give us light so that we can see goodness and can in turn do good. This image, projected by the light of the sun, gives us hope, tells our story and leaves us to trust as Our Lady trusted, to have faith, to believe that there is more. As the sun rises and hits the window at the perfect moment, so too does Her Son rise in glory and perfection.

What do you see? The images of the men? Our reflection in the story?

He Leadeth Me

A group of moms from St. Cecilia Academy read “He Leadeth Me” during the Season of Lent and could not have picked a better book for this time of year. Fr. Ciszek truly experienced the Way of the Cross in the Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia for 23 years. Fr. Ciszek shares his incredible lessons of faith as he teaches the reader the importance of perseverance through prayer. His words are for today.
And his closing thoughts (along with all the other markings I made in the book) I’d like to hold onto forever.

 “…that every moment of our life has a purpose, that every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itself, has a dignity and a worth beyond human understanding. No man’s life is insignificant in God’s sight, nor are his works insignificant-no matter what the world or his neighbors or family or friends may think of them. Yet what a terrible responsibility is here. For it means that no moment can be wasted, no opportunity missed, since each has a purpose in man’s life, each has a purpose in God’s plan.”

“Yet no one can know greater peace, no one can be more committed, no one can achieve a greater sense of fulfillment in his life than the man who believes in this truth of the faith and strives daily to put it into practice. If it all seems too simple, you have only to try it to find how difficult it is. But you have only to try it to find out as well the joy and the peace and the happiness it can bring. For what can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives always to do his will?”

Lives of the Saints

I love reading and writing about the lives of the Saints, those men and women who have gone before us, examples of incredible faith, giving themselves completely to Christ. To me, their stories are inspiring no matter how simple or how grand. As I have said before, I believe they intercede for us. They’ve been here. They get us. They understand. Many overcame tremendous difficulties, many turned their lives around completely and many have changed lives.

The bookstore is in it’s busiest time of the year. Communions, Confirmations, Graduations, Easter, RCIA, and Weddings keep us running up and down those four flights pretty much all day. I venture down from the office many times during the day to check inventory for reordering or to fill orders phoned in or pulled from the website or just to check and make sure the customers are served. Yesterday, much to my delight, I happened upon a woman in the basement looking for “the medal of a woman saint who her mother used to pin to her pillow when she was sick”. I know right now that all readers are trying to guess, Rita?, Agnes?,  Lucy?, Anne? Well, I went with the Miraculous Medal and explained a little of the story of Catherine Laboure. The woman’s daughter was in a stroller and kept screaming out jibberish amongst the word mommy so we walked closer to her and that’s when the story began.

“You know, it’s funny how having children makes you remember the things your mother used to say and do when you were young. I remember my mom pinning some medal to our pillows but I cannot remember the saint. I am going to definitely get this Miraculous Medal and this medal of St. Nicholas. When my mother was pregnant with me, she got sick and had to be put to bed. I was delivered very early and with me, my brother who was still born. My mother felt like it was something she had done or not done that made my brother die until, in a dream, St. Nicholas came to her and told her that she would get my brother back. Soon after the dream she became pregnant with my younger brother. She named him Nicholas. You know, he is the patron saint of children.” “Yes ma’am, I know.” “My mother is not alive to tell me who the saint was but little by little I remember the things she did and I want to do them too.Thank you for your help.” “Oh no, thank you.”

People who have gone before us… Tell the stories. Ask for intercession. Pass on the traditions. Spread faith.

On the Road Again

Once again I had the incredible opportunity to set up shop in Maggie Valley, NC for the priests of the Charlotte Diocese. Each year I take a van load of books and vestments and churchware for them to peruse between scheduled events of their retreat. Each year I come away with a little more on my mind. The area alone is worth the drive and the time. It is beautiful in those mountains as the leaves are turning colors, with the cool air moving in.

I was a little hectic before I left, setting up a book fair for one of the area schools and leaving my family to host the Midwest Church Guild for the weekend and on Monday and having my mom and my sister cover for me at a book club on Tuesday taking books to be donated to an area hospital. But, it all worked out as usual and I am home, having driven until after midnight and picking up the last of the book fair this morning.

Each day that I was in Maggie Valley I thought about how hectic I had been trying to get everything settled before I left. I thought about how hectic I make my life and I thought about what I could do to make things a little less hectic. Hmmm. Not take the bookstore out to the people. Well, no, that’s part of our mission. Not be in the Catholic Book Club. Well, no, I enjoy those people and it makes me read books I normally may never read. Not allow people from other parts of the U.S. to come visit our store and see how we operate and what an amazing job my mom and sister do with our displays and my husband does in the small space we allow him to have. Well, no, I think God gave them talents that need to be shared. Not write. Well, no way, I love to write. So, this day as I begin the first day of a Year of Faith, I am contemplating all that God has put into my life, my awesome kids included, and I am thanking Him every day for the opportunity to have to juggle, to have to find creative ways to get it all done. Sitting alone for 3 days with the occasional visit from a priest can make a person contemplate. Lord, what do You want me to do each day? Teach me Your ways. Let me be Your hands. Let me walk Your path. Show me. Lead me. Give me Faith.

Humbling

I just have to share this moment. God is so good. He knows I do much better with the flashing light signs and signals and confirmations. He knows that I am more like Thomas than I would ever care to admit. He knows that every once in a while I need a message that tells me that no matter what type of struggles I may be going through or what others may think or say, I’m doing okay in His book. Keep working hard. Keep praying that what you do or say works for someone. Keep believing in the mission. One person could be changed by one word or one book or one bit of kindness.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on the balcony at the store taking a look to see what kind of books I could take for a workshop. We have had a lot of book tables lately…a good thing…and I am grateful. Before I could exit, this big man came toward me and said, “You’ve worked here quite a few years haven’t you?” He had my undivided attention because I was not getting past him anyway. “Yes sir.” “Do you have a second?” Here it comes…”I just wanted to tell you that I have come in here since the 1980’s and when I first started coming with my friend I was Church of Christ. He convinced me to become Episcopal. We have continued to come into the store a couple of times a year.” “Oh. That is great.” Then…it surprised me…”Well, I am now studying to be Catholic. I am taking RCIA classes and I wanted you to know that this store has been a large part of my journey to the Catholic Faith.” Well, I thanked him for sharing that, truly thanked him and found myself crying as I spoke. I was completely choked up.
You see, my mom has done such an amazing job keeping this Catholic Bookstore up in Nashville against the odds. I say that because when she bought it from the Diocese and enlarged it to the four story building it sits in today, it was really a leap of faith. The percentage of Catholics at that time was I believe 2.5% in Nashville and it may be 7% now. She was very careful to make the store a place for everyone, of all faiths and of no faith. Today there is a flashing sign right in front of me, actually blocking my way, that says that her hard work, her prayer, her belief in the mission, her faith, our God, has made a difference. It was humbling to hear this man speak of his journey, to share his story, to include the store. Completely humbling.

Wash With Tears

Today we read in the Gospel the story of the “sinful woman” who washes the feet of Jesus with her tears. She never says a word. She uses her sorrow for her sins for the good of another and in return, without asking, she is made clean. Her faith saves her and she is given the gift of peace.

I have to ask myself today, what do I do in times of sorrow? How do I react to others? Is there some way to actually turn my times of sorrow into some sort of good for someone else? Why should I? It’s the time when I may want others to come to my rescue, to attend to my needs, to give me attention. And yet, maybe it’s the time when Jesus asks me to have Faith, to sit with Him and to accept the gift of peace, to be an example to those around me. This lesson I read today is a tough lesson for me to even fathom. In the times of my greatest loss, of my greatest fear, of my greatest anxiety, how can I turn this into something good for others? How can I see beyond myself?

Jesus tells me today that especially in my darkest moments, in my brokenness, in my sorrow, I am to have faith. He will bring me peace. He will cleanse me of my sins. He will be my consolation.

My mother has always, and I have mentioned it before, told us to “wash feet”. She has passed on the idea that until we have been in someone else’ shoes, we have no idea. Maybe it is times such as this, our own times of sadness, or fear, or anxiety, that we can understand just what others go through and we can ourselves be witnesses to what it means to truly have Faith.

Today, as I envision this woman’s tears washing the feet of Christ, may I learn to wash, may I take the time, may I make a difference, and most of all, may I not say a word and simply have Faith.

The Language of Kindness

“Being a disciple of Christ means being meek and gentle.” St. John Chrysostom

As I park, I notice she is at the Grotto, bowing slightly toward the large figure of Our Blessed Mother. I don’t walk past her, not wanting to disturb her time in prayer. I walk around and hop up the larger flight of stairs and head for the Chapel. I sit and read a little about the Saint of the Day, St. John Chrysostom, “Golden Mouth”. I read a bit on his amazing talent of preaching and of using his words, the words of Christ, to turn others to the Faith. I sit and listen. Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I notice she enters the room. As usual, those who come in after her, old and young alike, stop for a hug or exchange a smile or a soft spoken word. It happens every morning but this particular morning it hits me. She speaks very little English and even that is rarely understandable. And. That’s. Just. It. We all understand the language of kindness. She is meek and she is gentle and she is always kind and all can understand. She never fails to ask me about my children and my parents and to tell me about her grandchildren. She is always smiling and praying and touching her lips to her hands and passing that kiss on to the figure of Mary or of Joseph or of Jesus. She is always in that Chapel and her kindness and her love for her Faith is an example to us all. She is truly an example of being a disciple of Christ and although we can rarely translate the words, we easily understand the language. As St. John Chrysostom spoke to small and great alike and all were able to understand by his word and his example, so too can those who have mastered the language of kindness.