One Big Crowd

“Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.”  Hebrews 7:25

Original by Jean D. Dortch

“Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.”  Mark 3:8-10
The square was packed with people pushing to get to the front. By the time the Pope was driven around to our side, people were passing their children up to us to get Pope John Paul II to touch them. The entire moment was surreal. When he reached down and took my hand, I understood from that touch what all the hoopla was about and I knew I had been touched by one whom God had sent. The crowd had come from far away places and in order for the Pope not to be crushed, there were barricades and a glassed-in  vehicle. Everyone in the crowd that day wanted to touch him, not because he could cure, but because we knew that before us was a man who truly would intercede for us to God. We knew that the man before us was sincere when he said he would pray for our healing, for our needs, for our children and our parents, for us. The entire pressing crowd knew that his words were guided by the Spirit and through his touch we knew that he was sent to make a difference.
Jesus was sent to save us. He was sent to intercede for us to God. He was sent to heal us and to deeply touch our lives. Despite the crowds, the difficulties, the pressing of others in this world not to believe, we are called to go to Him and allow Him to save us. Be a part of the incredible crowd of believers and arrive early. He will intercede and your life will be changed forever.

A Healing Touch

“Do not touch anything in this store.” “Hands in your pockets. I mean it.” “No. No. Don’t touch.” Seems we are constantly on our children about keeping their hands to themselves, especially in certain stores where if they break something, it becomes ours. Touching can lead to ownership. Simple.

Today as Fr. Mark read the Gospel about Jesus healing the leper and referred to yesterday’s reading of the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, he commented on the importance of Jesus’ touch. He could have just said the words and they would have been healed but instead He touched them. My mind immediately went to the idea of telling my children a million times not to touch things that did not belong to them. But these people, people everywhere, kept coming to Jesus because they wanted to belong to Him. Jesus owned up to the power to heal the sick and the lost and they bought into all He had to offer. Who wouldn’t?

Many times I have thought before giving money to a street person, “If I give it to him, he will expect it every time I see him.” If I touch him now, he’s mine. I’ve bought into his misery and his need. Well, so what! So what if I have to give him a little something every time I see him. Maybe it’s time for me to get my hands out of my pockets and touch someone. I certainly cannot heal with these hands but God can work through them some other way. We’re all so worried about breaking something. Well, it’s already broken so let’s work together to fix it. Let’s touch someone today and maybe tomorrow and who knows, maybe all week. Let’s not worry about what others think and start making a difference. Let’s buy into these Gospel messages and own up to our beliefs. It’s not easy. People we touch may rely on us again and again. And then again, that may be just the ticket we need.

A Year of W’s

With my oldest daughter’s wedding quickly approaching, I have decided to make the year 2017 a year of W’S.
Wake – each day happy, healthy and ready
Word – read and pray the word of God daily
Write – blog, journal, manuscript
Walk – a little every day
Water – 8 glasses a day
Work – physical, mental, spiritual
Website – new, improved, personal and bookstore
Wife – be a better partner
Win – be an example of positive thinking
Wise – read, study, learn something new every day
Wait – work on patience
Wonder – allow myself to be a child at heart
Wander – roam, travel, journey
Want – stay hungry for something better
Waste – nothing
Watch – be aware of others, be open
Whole – be complete, all God’s intention, full potential
Wedding – March 4th, incredibly special, cannot wait to share their day, gaining a son

I know I will extend this list as the months pass but for now, I am focused on these W’s. What about you? Any W’s for your year or any other resolutions? Thank the good Lord that every day is a new day and a fresh start. Happy 2017

Make Resolutions, Set Goals for 2017

Why do we make New Year Resolutions? What good are they when 9 years out of 10 we end up with a fail?  Do we set impossible goals? Are we unrealistic?

All of these are good questions and are the very reasons why many have canned the idea of making New Year Resolutions but I would like to get back to the idea of pushing ourselves to be better, to do more, to set goals that make us stretch ourselves. I would like for us to challenge ourselves each day to do something outside our comfort zone. If we fail today, we have 364 more days to pursue our goals. Each day is a new start and each day is a possibility to succeed.

Make those resolutions. Set Goals. Do your best every day and if you come up short, instead of tossing the year, start again tomorrow. Review your day and see where things went wrong. That in itself is a good habit. If you feel you’ve set goals that are impossible, reset those goals and when you reach them, push yourself harder. There are no rules but if we do not set some kind of resolutions, we’ll remain stagnant, we’ll never expand our potential, we’ll never grow.

Whether we want a better mind or body or soul, whether we want to read more, workout more or pray more, if we do not set goals, we have nothing to achieve. So go ahead. Make your lists. Do your best each day. Try. And if you fall short, remember, tomorrow is another day. Another chance. A gift from God. Go for it. Happy New Year from our family to yours!

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.

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

Today as we contemplate Our Lady of Sorrows, I remember my visits to the many beautiful Marian Shrines throughout the United States. With each visit came different gifts of grace and peace. My visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago offered a sense of peace that I had no idea I really needed. Amazing how she knows our true needs as mothers and sisters and fathers and brothers. Funny how things put together 100’s of years ago can serve a direct purpose today, how God’s plan unfolds and all we really need to do is show up, be attentive, be open, believe and receive. I happen to be alone on my visit to Our Lady of Sorrows. I spend time wandering to the different beautiful altars dedicated to Our Lady. It is a peaceful visit. I wander to a back chapel which was once the Baptistry and I find a rather large marble replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta. As described in Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and their Graces, I am so close that I can see how young this mother is who holds her Son’s body across her lap. But I also notice that her lap is greatly oversized compared to the rest of her body and the body of her Son. I realize at this moment that she is inviting me to find comfort for my own sorrows. Her lap, which is filled with her deepest sorrow, the death of her only Son, has room for all I have closed in my own heart. I can do nothing but allow her to take it all, the lose of children and brothers and grandparents and nephew and cousin and uncles and close friends, along with fears and anxieties and worries. I am drained but there is a huge relief of sort. It’s  difficult to relate the experience. It’s a pure gift of grace.

On this Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrow, as Jesus gives His Mother to John, He offers her to all of us. We would do well to take her into our homes. We would do well to allow her to take our needs and our cares and our concerns, our children and our parents and our friends. We would do well to visit her one on one, to pray her rosary and to trust her with our lives. She has been through it all and in her lap rests the answer to all we need.

Olympics, Race, Marathon

“persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus” Heb 12:2

Like many others around the world, I have been completely enamored with the Olympics. Watching these incredible men and women use their God-given talents to the max is nothing short of inspiring. For some reason I have noticed more than usual attention given to Christian athletics who have displayed their faith either by word or by action. Maybe I’m just paying more attention. Again, extremely inspiring.

There are also numerous videos on youtube from this Olympics in Rio and from past Olympics. One of the videos that caught my attention was “when Switzerland’s Gabriela Andersen-Schiess finished 37th in the inaugural women’s Olympic marathon at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Games. Her refusal to quit the race despite the exhausting conditions and suffering from dehydration led to an iconic Olympic moment as sheer determination saw her over the finish line.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBasZWjd92k 

As I watched this runner, more than once, stumbling to make it to the finish line, and as I listened to her interview about her desire just to finish, about her knowledge of where she was going and her need just to make it to the finish line, thoughts of our lives as Christians came flooding through my mind. The idea that this woman had run this same race many times, the idea that she had finished this same amount of miles, made me stop and think how important it is for us to continually and consistently practice our faith. Our life is nothing short of a marathon. Every day that we practice acts of charity, every day that we take time to pray, every day that we strive toward sainthood, we move a little closer to our reward of eternal life with Christ. We should, like these athletes, put our blood, sweat and tears into our workout. We should, like these athletes, leave everything out on the playing field so that at the end of the day we can truly say we gave it our all. We need to practice over and over everyday so that when the going gets tough, when we are completely drained of all our energy, when we experience true dryness and our body fails, our mind and our heart will take over and we will persevere to another day. There is no doubt that we will stumble. There is no doubt that we will be tempted to quit and to jump on the easy ride with everyone else. There is no doubt that we will feel the pain of the struggle. But, what we know as Christians, what we know from the example of Jesus Christ himself and of the Saints who have imitated His life, is that the reward is well worth the struggle, well worth continuing the journey.

In the interview with this amazing athlete, Gabriela mentions that when she arrived inside the stadium, she was cheered on by the crowd. How important it is for us to support one another in our lives of faith! She mentions that there was a Doctor behind her as she struggled through the last lap. How important it is for us to have spiritual help from our priests, our deacons and other spiritual directors! She mentions that she realized that she would never have another Olympic opportunity so she knew she had to cross that finish line. How important it is for us to take every opportunity set in front of us as if it’s our last!

Practice. Persevere. Push hard. And like these great athletes, leave it all out there. Everyday. Finish. With our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Baby Birds, Leaving the Nest, Last to Leave

As I was working outside this morning, I noticed this little nest of baby birds in my front tree. The more I look at the photo, the more I love it. How precious this new life! How precious all life! The first thought that came to my mind was that they seem to be a little late in the season. Seems we usually have new babies in the Spring and early Summer. Guess I’m thinking they will be late leaving the nest, last to get out into the real world before Fall.

Today I took my last child to register for her Freshman year of High School then put her on a bus for Freshman overnight. Last week my son started his Junior year of High School and in two weeks I will take my daughter way up north to begin her Freshman year of college. My two oldest are finishing graduate school while my third is working on career decisions and college classes. And, of course, we have our first wedding next March. Leaving is just on my mind.

Seems that whether they are the first to leave the nest or the last, whether they keep up with the rest of the world or go out on their own a little later, whether they come back for a while or stay gone forever, they all, at some point, have to learn to fly. They all, at some point, will take what they’ve learned inside that nest and they will go out and make lives for themselves. They will build their own nests and they will be responsible for themselves and most likely others. They have been fed and nourished and they will learn to feed and nourish their own.  And we must encourage them to go. No matter how difficult it is to have that empty nest, they need to move along so that as the seasons change, they do not get held down by the storms of life, they do not get washed out or eaten up. We must encourage them to spread their wings and to take that first leap. We must teach them that God will be with them and that when times are tough or seem impossible, they can turn to God for help and He will always, always be there. We must encourage them not just to keep the faith but to spread the faith.

On this day of leaving, on this day of letting go, on this day of changes, I pray these baby birds fly. I pray that while leaving the nest, they take with them all they’ve been taught and they know how much they are loved. I pray that even the very last to leave receives all they need to make it in this world, to weather the storms and to thrive.

Mother Teresa Canonization, Weeds

Last week Allen and I were in Chicago at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show bouncing back and forth between promoting my new book, Talking to God, and buying beautiful, new merchandise for the bookstore. In almost every booth we witnessed the excitement of the upcoming canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4th. When asked my thoughts on Mother Teresa, all I could think of were the parables over the past couple of weeks about the weeds among the wheat. For some reason, Jesus’ explanation to allow the weeds to grow along with the wheat for fear of pulling up the good while trying to get rid of the bad, reminded me of many holy people who dedicate their lives to taking care of the less fortunate, the sick, the poor, those many may consider problems. Mother Teresa was the perfect example of not just allowing weeds to grow along with the wheat but of believing that those who may be considered the lowest could be nourished and changed into something good. Who is to say that the sick and the poor and the lowly are not the wheat itself and those who walk around them are not the weeds who choke their possibility of becoming something beautiful? It’s just food for thought. The week and the Gospel readings made me think about what and who I am surrounded by on a daily basis. The merciful Mother Teresa who worked tirelessly for others, who saw in each person the face of Christ, who herself struggled spiritually, understood that Jesus was not just talking about allowing people, good or bad, rich or poor, young or old, to live together equally, but that we should help one another to be something more, that we should nourish one another and build each other up so that when the final sickle is wielded, we are not cut along with the others we did not bother to try and help. She understood that we could well be the weeds. We, who go to our jobs daily and work hard for a living and provide for our own families, may well be the ones who choke the possible goodness of the less fortunate. Every person is a gift. Every person deserves a chance. Some we may feel have squandered that chance but who are we to judge. Those may be the very persons that Jesus put in our lives to save us. What better way to close the Year of Mercy than with the canonization of one who was Merciful? What better way to continue the work of mercy than to emulate our great Saints, our wheat, those selfless people who knew that all mankind deserves the chance to be saved, to live a better life, to be fed and nourished, to rise above? Weeds and wheat growing together to the end. May we somehow learn to strengthen one another, to plant and to feed and to grow together so that in the end the wheat fields are full of the goodness that God intended.