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.

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.

Working in a Family Business

Last night I got all cozy in bed and suddenly heard one of my older daughters in the hallway. It was not late so I called out, “Hey. Just thinking about you. Glad you’re home.” Dinner with friends. Early night. She came into my bedroom and commented on her younger sister being awake and I said,
“Hey, come in here and rub my feet.” My older girl who hates to touch feet offers, “I can rub your feet.” Really! Yippee! I could not get them out from the covers fast enough. I love a good foot rub after a long day. As she massaged, she talked about her day and her night and related a story about seeing a girl she graduated from high school with at the restaurant last night. The girls asked her what she was up to and she said, “Work.” “And where are you working?” Turns out, she’s an event planner and her job sounds really cool and my daughter could not imagine why she didn’t just offer the info on the front end. We laughed and she said, “Hey it’s not like she works for her mom or something. When she asked what I was doing I told her that I am coaching high school volleyball and working at the bookstore for my mom and my dad.” Again, we just laughed. The conversation ended and so did the foot massage.
While getting my hair cut this morning, it dawned on me…Hey! Wait a minute! I work for my mom! Is there something wrong with that?

Thirty-five years ago, my mom bought St. Mary’s Bookstore from the Diocese of Nashville and soon after I started working with her while going to Vanderbilt/Peabody and getting my teaching degree. The entire time I worked at the store, when asked, I would say, “Oh I’m just doing this until I get a teaching job or until I can open my own gift shop.” Ya know, not wanting any of my friends to think that I would work for my mom or for Jesus my whole life. After graduating, I did go back to our high school, St. Cecilia Academy, much like my daughter, and coached and taught P.E. and yet continued to work at the bookstore.  Hmmm…much like my daughter.
For almost thirty-five years, I have worked in my mother’s bookstore. She has moved the store from a two room building off Harvey’s Dept. Store in downtown Nashville to a 4-story, once apartment building, just out from downtown, a block from the Cathedral. She has maintained her goal of having “something for everyone” and keeping the store “beautiful”, honoring the very One whose Word she spreads. Her goal has always been to bring others to Christ whether through example, by word and deed, or by providing something that could serve to change a life, such as a book or one of the wonderful sacramentals of the church that remind us to stay close to Christ through prayer and the sacraments.
People ask me all the time, “What are you doing now?” “I’m still at the Bookstore.” And ya know, it’s good. I want to be there. I want to continue the work. Granted, I’m nothing like my mom. I am much rougher around the edges, not near as kind (the salesmen seem to love to take a jab at that when the occasion arises), and just not as humble and sweet. But, we make it all work. I love what I do and let me just tell ya, working with family (or should I say family working with me)  is not easy. As a matter of fact, anyone who works with me should gain a ticket to Heaven just for the time they’ve put in here. Think about it. You work all day and go home together and over dinner remember that something was left undone and you blurt it out while cutting your pork chop and suddenly the rest of the day churns into a full conversation and despite trying not to, work is brought home and sitting with you and your kids at the supper table. Now there may be something or everything that wasn’t handled the way one of you thought it should be and you become a little miffed. So, through the years you try really hard not to bring up work at every family event, but it’s not easy. It has become a part of your lives. But the more we work together, the more we understand one another, the more we know how to choose between the good stuff to talk about at home and the hard stuff to talk about at work.
So, working for your mother… Yes. I am still working for my mother and I love every minute of it. I work with my husband and my mother and my sister and my sister-in-law’s sister and my second daughter and for the summer, my third daughter and her friends and sometimes even my youngest daughter. My son will help with work on the website as he did last year, I’m sure.  Together we have a Family Business. Together we work on the business of Jesus. Together, as in the beginning, we work to bring others closer to Christ, to offer something for everyone and to help to build up the city of God. I hope so anyway.
And, the answer is…there is nothing wrong with that.

Our Lady of Consolation – Carey, OH

I love this display my sister and my mom put together for “Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces”. I love the little grotto that was given to my grandfather many years ago in exchange for work he had done at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL. I love the pink car to drive me around to the different grottoes and Marian shrines around the U.S. this summer. (Convertible?) I love all the brochures that the different Shrines sent to the store for us to hand out so customers might go and visit some of the beautiful shrines themselves, and the small overnight tote/hat box. How creative! I came home to this after being at the Religious Book Trade Exhibit in St. Charles, IL this past week. What a whirlwind that was but it was great to see familiar faces in the bookstore industry and to share ideas and to talk about and sign my book. I am grateful to the wonderful people at Franciscan Media/Servant Books for a great couple of days.

This weeks pictures are from the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH. Not only is the history behind this shrine amazing but the continual stories of conversion and healing are something to be seen for oneself. We noticed the recent dates on “things” that people “left behind”. Everything from leg braces to whiskey bottles to letters and pictures are left at the church after pilgrims have been blessed by Our Lady in some way. Our Lady of Consolation is a “dressed” figure and many of those who have had a healing in some way make a dress for her in gratitude for answered prayers.

Our Lady of Consolation

Prayer Requests left for Our Lady

Dresses made in thanksgiving to Our Lady

Left Behind

Inside the original Church

Shrine Park

Stations in Shrine park

Happy Father’s Day