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.

I Had a Thought and Then…

I was participating in Mass yesterday at the Pastoral Center during the Catechetical Conference and an idea popped into my head and not a few minutes later popped right back out. Drives me crazy because normally when I receive something while at Mass, I want it to stick with me. Who wouldn’t? Right? It was a long day, setting up St. Mary’s Bookstore on 3 long tables a little after 7 a.m. then selling all day and packing up at 3 to take back to the store and return to the shelves, then close the store at 5. But, I had some great help and got to spend time with great people so I was all good. After dinner I watched a little football with my husband and promptly fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up, I asked about the game and my husband responded that Auburn just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. And that was it! That was the message I received at Mass! I couldn’t believe it. It’s all about Auburn…no, I mean, it’s all about getting out of our own ways.

This past week my youngest daughter had several volleyball games and as I watched them fall short for the 3rd match in a row, I thought, “they just cannot seem to get our of their own way”. They did more to beat themselves than the other team did to beat them. Not saying the other teams were not good or didn’t deserve the wins but come on….talk, work together.

During Mass, the thought came clearly. Come on. Stop beating ourselves. We all need to get out of our own ways and talk, work together. Because after all, it’s not really about who gets what or who did this or that, it’s about how we treat one another during this mass confusion we call living in this world. Every day we are given many opportunities to be kind, to love, to change lives by what we say or how we say it, by what we do or don’t do. Social media especially has become a major player in how we treat one another. Think about some of the things we read and some of the comments made. We really are not very kind to one another. What if we knew that every comment, every action was to test our reaction? Do we discuss topics and work with one another? Or do we react with anger? We are constantly and continually beating ourselves here. We cannot seem to get out of our own way.
I am not good about this but what if we used all the bad things that happen to us or are said about us as the chance to make a difference? Maybe even by not doing or saying anything. Or, maybe by turning bad into good. I think that’s the major difference between us and the saints. With the Canonization of Mother Teresa I guess all of this has made me start thinking of the simple things she and the other Missionary of Charity sisters did and still do that all of us can do. Granted, few of us are going to serve the poor in India, but there are plenty of poor in our own cities. Wait. I’m getting off course. We all know we can do and be better. My point here is that we need to stop working against ourselves. We need to stop making what is good and holy seem so difficult. We need to take the simple opportunities put before us day after day and complete the tasks. We need to be kind to the meanest and love the haters and do for the ungrateful. We need to stop beating ourselves with unforced errors so to speak. Let’s talk. Let’s work together. Let’s share our good thoughts and let’s stay out of our own way.

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?

What He Sees

“Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” Samuel 16

The New Year turns many of us into organizational wild people. All we can think about is what we can do to clean up and clean out and start anew. At the bookstore, we have been cleaning and moving things around and making the store better so our customers can get a fresh look at new, exciting product. But, this morning’s reading reminds me that what the Lord really cares about is the heart of the store. We can work to make the store more organized and beautiful but what are we doing for those who walk through those doors? Where is the heart? Are we truly loving our customers and do they know we care? Do we take time to listen?
I think God speaks to everyone today whether as we work inside or outside the home. The organization of our homes and our businesses may make us feel good about the way things look but what makes God feel good about us is what’s in our hearts. So relax. Focus on the love. Even the smallest of businesses and the poorest of families and the weakest of all can please the Lord everyday.
What about you? Are you on to the heart of the matter for the New Year?

St. Therese of Lisieux

I believe it is fitting on this Feast Day of St. Therese not to over think what Jesus expects of us, how we are to act and to react, what we are to do and how we are to live. “To live out of love means to banish all fear, every memory of past faults. I see no mark of my sins, in a moment love burnt everything.” St. Therese makes us think about simple acts of love. She makes us contemplate true acts of Mercy. She lived love.

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us to go out, “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” I have to think that He is speaking directly to us on the heels of the messages of Pope Francis, at the nearing of the Year of Mercy, on the Feast Day of St. Therese, reminding us all to simply love one another. Each day, we are asked to go out. Each day we are asked to carry nothing from the day before, to start fresh and new, to hold no grudges, to be reminded of no bitterness, no anger. Each day we are asked not simply to greet people, not simply to keep passing them by with hardly an acknowledgement. Each day we are to have an encounter. We are to look into the eyes of those we have worked with for years and see them. We are to be open to a conversation. We are to see inside the panhandler, the cranky secretary, the obnoxious partner, the overbearing spouse, the annoying sibling. Every day, just as St. Therese in her own community, we are to be love to those in our family and in our community and in our workplace. Some will accept love and some will not. Some days we may feel like we could get eaten alive by the harshness of this world. Jesus tells us to shake it off and keep moving. He tells us not to bounce around from one to another but to stay focused. Love. Each day. Banish fear. Erase the past. Be Merciful. May we all strive to be the Body of Christ, the work of His hands and the love of Heart.

Put on Heartfelt Compassion…Wearing Faith

St. Paul has awesome words of wisdom for us today. “Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body. And be thankful.”

I don’t know about you but I could use this reminder every day of my life. And yet, as I think about it, I do have this reminder right in front of me every day that I rise. The crucifix on my wall should speak these very words. What he has done for us, we too must do. The crucifix is our reminder of perfect love.

The other day, my sister-in-law suddenly announced that she is having the parents’ party for her daughter’s class at her home soon. She is not Catholic and expressed a little worry about not having a crucifix in her home. We immediately offered choices from the store not even thinking, as I am now, that I really should have said something a little different. She is the type of person much like the one Paul challenges us to be today. As the parents enter her house, they will feel the love she has for her family. They will experience her kindness to open up her home as a place where they can feel comfortable and really get to know the other parents in their daughter’s grade. She gives so much of her time and talent for her daughters’ school, it’s difficult not to appreciate the work of her hands and her heart. She says “yes” more than anyone I know when the school is in need of a volunteer. There are other parents in our school as well who constantly step up and help, and for these people, I am thankful. So, I should have said something more like, “You do not necessarily need a crucifix on your wall. Your actions speak volumes.”

Sure, I love having Sacramentals in my home but I have to remember that they are just pretty things unless I actually use them as the church means us to use them, that is, as reminders. If I do not “put on, as God’s chosen”, if I do not wear my faith, all those beautiful Sacramentals are just a waste. I believe my sister-in-law may like having a crucifix in their home as a reminder, but their family certainly does not need to have one to express their Christianity. As the song goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Blessed Mother Teresa

Today we celebrate the feast of Blessed Mother Teresa. As is my normal routine, after my daily reading I clicked to find a short story of Mother Teresa and decided to put a quote from her on my site for today. When reading through the lists, I noticed this quote and thought I might choose, “If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
As one who tells my children things over and over and over, I loved this message of refueling, of continual burning, of sending out. But, I passed over to read more choices only to find the exact same quote two or three spaces down. Now if that’s not confirmation, I don’t know what is. And so, today we have this quote from Mother Teresa, “If we want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
There is so much in this message from her today. She was definitely all about the love of Christ. She was all about His message to be heard and His love and His message to be sent out. She was all about not hiding her lamp under a bushel. She was all about refueling the lives of those she came in contact with and she was all about taking opportunity, living open to His call and loving and loving and loving. Today, spread the message of love. Light your lamps and keep them refueled. Burn brightly in the name of Christ and make a difference, if only to one person. And love. And love. And love.