Be Still …

Sometimes the Lord calls us to rest and it is a sacrifice I find most difficult to offer. We run about doing good but become like whirling dervishes; set in motion and unable to stop, breathe or reflect.

Summer: time to rest, pray and refreshIs this really what the Lord is asking of us? Sometimes we need to go apart to pray as Jesus did so we can set a new pace. I find for myself that often I don’t stop until I have a migraine. For others it may take a fall, an accident, the flu, getting fired, or what have you. Wouldn’t it be better if we could hear God’s voice calling us to rest and pray before we have gone over our physical, emotional, and spiritual limits?

I have been burned out in the past through ministry. These times were not just difficult for me but also for those with whom I worked. The more fatigued I became, the more I pushed. The more I pushed, the higher expectations I put on others. It was a vicious circle. I didn’t use my vacation time nor comp time because I couldn’t afford to get further behind … until I had to stop and take a long period off work. How much better it would have been if I had used my vacation time to rest, pray and play. 

In the past year I have been with eleven hospice patients and I love this volunteer work. It is a supreme privilege to be present with these individuals during such a critical time. Last month, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t quite bouncing back between patients. I found that even on my visiting day I would be wiped out. I know there is always a need for volunteers but I also knew it was time for me to take a break.

During these beautiful days of summer, which is such a short time in New England, may we all take the time to rest and pray. Then, being refreshed in the Lord, we may express His love in so many more ways from the wealth we have received.

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Finding Peace and Finding God

You might have wondered why there are so many different devotions to Mary all over the world. They are all about the beautiful and varied ways that Our Holy Mother wants to share her Love, Jesus Himself, with people of different times, places and cultures - and how these people have returned that love.

There is another important thing to note. In each devotion, there is some unique part of the Gospel message that she wants to teach and that she herself lives and represents for us as Mother of the Church.

A good example of this is Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose feast we celebrate July 16. She is the Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Pray for us.Patroness of the Carmelite Order but it's striking that this devotion is pretty universal in the Church, even in places where there the Carmelites have not reached. You can see this in the very widespread use of the "Brown Scapular" of Our Lady of Mount Carmel through which Our Lady promises to help us with a grace-filled and peaceful death and lead us to eternal life. It is a way that she wants to walk with us, as our Mother.

Further, as we look at the history of the Carmelite Order we can get a sense of what she wants to teach us. Around the year 1200, some men who had gone to fight in the Crusades in the Holy Land settled as hermits on Mount Carmel. They looked to the Prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary as models of a prayerful and holy life infused by prayer and the Gospel. The Prophet Elijah had encountered the Lord in a gentle breeze (see 1 Kings 19:12 , i.e., in stillness and peace) and the Blessed Virgin received the Word so totally that He was made flesh within her.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel calls us all to live prayerfully and reflectively! In a world where we are constantly barraged by our telecommunications and electronic devices she wants us to find God - and along the way to discover ourselves -  through a lot more peace and quiet!

The Crusaders who became monks in hillside caves made a radical move that not many are called to. Still, in today's world it takes a personal decision to carve out little space for peace in your life and in your home! But we all need it! We all know that the noise and the pace of life can drive us crazy.

'Don't know how to begin? Pick up your rosary for 5, 10, or 15 minutes a day - every day ! - and let Our Lady help you. Help those you love to do so too. 

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Topics: rosary, our-lady-of-mount-carmel, feast days

A Goal for God

This week has been very exciting with the World Cup soccer games taking place in Brazil. Fans are gathering together to cheer on the players, show pride for their countries and enjoy their favorite sport. The streets are crowded with people from all parts of the globe. Visitors are chanting about which team is better and which country will win. There is plenty of positive energy being shared among so many faithful fans.

Futbol-Ball-2As we watched the United States play Belgium, I could feel the excitement build. As we watched the goalie from the US play his best in blocking shots, the enthusiastic crowd seemed to get louder and louder. Although he did his best, the US lost their chances to win the championship. After the game, although disappointed because of the loss, the fans cheered their team and praised the goalie who played an outstanding game.

While experiencing all of this I could not help but think about the similarities to our faith journey. The Paschal Mystery also included loud cheers … for Jesus coming into Jerusalem and people cheering Hosanna! Then Jesus is arrested and put to death. After which he rose from the dead and lives among us in spirit. Our own lives are also filled with moments of joyful victory and agonizing defeat.

Even in the everyday activities of individuals, friends and families – whether it is watching a World Cup soccer game, helping your children with homework or visiting with a friend - we can always see the presence of our Lord in our midst. Jesus continuously reveals something about our humanness, about ourselves or about those around us.

How do you live the moments of victory and defeat that we all face in life? How often do you really pause to feel the energy of excitement and the tears of sorrow that is part of our journey in life?

Even in the game of soccer there is always an opportunity to score a goal for God.

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Topics: faith, jesus, soccer

Two Hearts: Back-to-Back Feast Days

Sacred-Heart-of-Jesus
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus comes upon us in the Liturgical Year as something of a sweet dessert after the rich feast which is the Easter Season. Moreover, the People of God know that the Heart of Jesus can't be separated from the Heart of His Mother, so we celebrate the Two Hearts, back to back. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated the day after the Sacred Heart.

As I have visited homes of Catholic families, rich and poor, all over the world, I have been moved to see how pervasive is the practice of enshrining an image for the Sacred Heart and next to it, one of Mary, often times the Immaculate Heart. It is a clear statement of faith that they preside over and protect the family. The practice has fallen off some in the US, Canada and Europe but I pray people will pick it up again because it communicates so much.

This has been important in popular religion since the 17th century when devotion to the Heart of Jesus and, soon thereafter, to the Heart of Mary, took off. In our times, similar experiences with great devotions to the Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Fatima too. Mother Mary appeared in Portugal to tell us of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart!

These images aren't magical. They are a way of "painting the Gospel," so that we can express that which we know and we experience – that God loves us so much – and our Mother Mary too! Contemplating the images helps us to hear this word of God, to deepen our experience of it and put it into practice. We let Jesus and Mary come into our hearts and our homes and we grow in love of them in return.Immaculate-Heart-of-Mary

Yet there is another dynamic going on that we would do well to be more aware of. Simply put in human terms, we become like what we love. Letting the Lord love us and loving Him back we become like him. We see in the Heart of Mary the perfect example of this: her heart is totally united with his.

I highly recommend one of my favorite ways of praying, particularly when I wake up in the middle of the night or at other times that I just need some simple way of reaching out to the Lord and to Our Lady. I repeat over and over and over again: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of Mary, I trust in you! You will feel them near, drawing you close.

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Topics: mary, jesus, feast-day

Take One!

Salt-and-Light-Catholic-Media-FoundationThis week I had the privilege of visiting the office and staff of Salt and Light Television in Toronto, Canada. I was invited to be part of their program Vatican Connections hosted by Alicia Ambrosio.

Alicia asked me questions about the role of women in the church and the effect Pope Francis is having on the church. These topics – so life-giving and dynamic for me personally – created quite a fruitful and energizing conversation.

We discussed the role that Mary has in the church: how we draw strength from her example and how her Yes was said only after the Angel Gabriel spoke the words, “Be not afraid.” This powerful statement is also meant for us and calls us to be courageous, to be fearless and to follow in her footsteps to know her Son and our brother, Jesus.

As women, we need to be bearers of new life. We are invited to create and carry life within us, in all that we do. We need to be reminded that we were not created to be in competition with men but rather to complement them, walking side by side … together in all that we do.

This engaging interview for the television program offered me the opportunity to reflect on how I see myself as a woman in the church, involved in a ministry that encourages families to gather together to pray, especially the praying of the Rosary . In the Mysteries of the Rosary , Mary always brings us to her Son, in all that she does, in her whole being. She desires that we follow her Son and get to know him. When reflecting on the life of Jesus, he teaches us how to interact with others, how to respond when we are in difficult or challenging situations and how to be a faithful and loving person, caring for the needs of others.

I invite you to also reflect on some of these same topics. How do you see women involved in the church? If you are a woman, what has been your personal experience as a woman in the church? How have you responded to the needs of those around you?

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Topics: Mysteries of the ROsary, mary, rosary

Taming Hearts

praying-rosary-GracieRecently I reread The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry. This is on my list of favorite books and is one of those fairy tales for adults. In this story the fox tells the little prince that he must be “tamed” and that will make all the difference. Now all these months later Gracie and I have tamed each other, so to speak.

For months I had been attending the weekly Rosary at an Alzheimer’s facility. Gracie must have been there since the nurses tell me she never missed it but in my mind’s eye, I only recall many wheelchairs and that there were people in them … not their faces. Then she became my hospice patient.

The first time I came to visit Gracie I told her I was a hospice volunteer. She raised her eyebrows, shook her head, and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “What next?” At the end of my second visit she thanked me for coming to visit and asked me to come again. By the third visit I was so aware of how sweet her temperament is as I observed her interaction with the help; Gracie consistently waits until she has eye contact with a person and then says, “Thank you” with a toothless smile. Week after week we pray the Rosary together, either in her room or with the group. Then we sit and chat or sing, if she likes.

My relationship with Gracie has exemplified what the fox teaches the little prince, “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is like a hundred thousand other little boys and I have no need of you. You on your part have no need of me … But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me you will be unique in all the world. To you I shall be unique in all the world … It is the love you spend on your rose which makes all the difference.” *

Gracie is my rose and is unique in all the world to me. I’m glad she has lived beyond 95 years so I am able learn her lessons and grow to love her. Since she has recovered so well, she has been discharged from hospice. I will continue to visit but no longer as a hospice volunteer but now as a friend.

* The Little Prince, written and illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Harcourt, Brace, & World, NY, 1943.

 

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Topics: rosary, hospice, Alzheimer’s disease

Pentecost

Gifts-of-PentecostNow that we are celebrating Pentecost I am reminded of the disciples hastening out of their hideout to spread the good news.

I think the most familiar example of this for us is falling in love. The world changes all around us. We love everyone and everyone is a friend. Every day is beautiful. But we know too that we could not live forever with that intensity. It is the habits we develop while in this joyful state that provides the foundation of a deeper love which continues to permeate our lives but in a much less obvious and more profound way.

Often I am amused how nothing empties out faster than a church parking lot after mass. Where are we all off to? Certainly we are not off to preach or proclaim the Word … or are we? We could be doing that as well, even without knowing it. As we leave Mass, we are permeated with the gifts of the spirit, Eucharist and the community of believers who have come together to worship (even if they think they are only doing their duty.)

We are usually not aware of this as we ride off to breakfast, or home to read the paper, to take the kids to games, or whatever. On days like today it’s a nice reminder that the Spirit is alive in our hearts. And as love grows deeper beyond the original passion, may we know that our faith, and grace goes deeper until we just live in that grace and it spills over to everyone around us as it moves and impels us to grow, reach out and yearn for more.

So on this Pentecost Sunday my prayer for us all is that we are increasingly aware of the gifts we have received and recognize them as we live out each day doing whatever we need to do.

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Topics: pentecost, mass, feast days

Walking in the Footsteps of a Saint

This past week I traveled to Krakow, Poland …

What an exciting place to be in light of the recent canonization of Pope John Paul II !  

st-john-paul-II-statue-krakow-polandIf you did not know that he was proclaimed a saint in April, well let’s just say, we could not miss the news in Krakow. It was so emotionally exciting to walk the same grounds that he did as a child, as a youth, as a priest and then as bishop. My heart was full of joy to be this close to his history, to learn more about this person and to witness what he did and said throughout his lifetime.

I visited his hometown, the place where he was baptized and the neighborhood where he lived. I read about his family history in the museum and spoke to people who are so proud to call him a native son.

One evening I attended vespers and Mass with the monks at the Dominican church. I was so profoundly struck to see that the church was packed … beyond standing room only! There were people sitting in the aisles, standing all around and even out the door. My heart was full of excitement, joy, gratitude and peace. I could only imagine what it must have been like for the apostles in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them ( Acts 2:1-4 ). It was awe-inspiring to be with the youth and college students among the local people of the area, all celebrating the Eucharist with a reverence so profound and with such meaning – it was simply a powerful experience.

As we approach the celebration of Pentecost  - the birth of the church - we are reminded of the journey each one of us lives within the faith of the church. We listen to our current Pope Francis giving witness to what it is that we are called to live – what it is to be a follower of Jesus. I ask: What do you do to share the spirit living within you? How are you a follower of Jesus?

 

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Topics: pentecost, saints, feast-day

You've Got Mail- Lots and Lots and Lots of Mail

Youve_Got_lots_of_Mail

A priest friend of mine recently told me that  upon returning from a retreat and logging into his e-mail, he found he had over 4000 messages.   I used to get excited when the voice of AOL used to say, "You've Got Mail"  whenever I logged onto the service.  Now, not so much. I really love the ways we can keep in communication with each other and the accessibility of information, but like many people, I find myself deluged by e-mail everyday.  E-mail can be a time-consuming and distracting reality.

     Chuck Murphy writes a blog on Internet and New Media.  In his recent entry he offers 10 Productive E-mail Habits.  Here are three I found very helpful:


    1. Email is not meant to be a discussion chain. If it requires more than 2 replies consider resolving the issue with a phone call.

    2. Save the CC function for only people that have asked to be copied on an email. It was not meant to keep people in the loop, in fact getting CC’d at the end of a long chain requires a lot of effortt understand an issue.

    3. If you can address an email in less than 2 minutes, take care of it and get it out of the way.

  How do you use e-mail in your life?  That is a message I would welcome. Read More

Topics: Family Rosary

A Change in Focus: Thoughts on What the Ascension Means to Those Who Are Grieving

Ascension_of_the_LordThere has always been something sad about Jesus ascending to heaven. There the disciples were looking up. Even though the angels told them it was a good thing that Jesus ascended, they still were still confused by the sense of emptiness.

This is true of any serious loss but even more so when the loss is someone you have given your life to care for. I am thinking of those who have cared for significantly impaired children who from early on were physically and/or mentally impaired, those caring for a loved one who is quadriplegic, or a spouse who has dementia. Their days are spent either in caring or enabling their loved one to live the best possible life considering the circumstances and thereby melding their own lives around these needs.

When the beneficiary of their love and care passes on, one would think these caregivers would be so relieved to finally be able to get on to living their own lives. But the void left by these deaths are profound. How can they possibly pick up their lives and go on? What kind of life can they live? Who are they without this person they have cared for morning, noon and night. Who are they if not a caregiver?

Many of us offer condolence but without understanding what kind of loss this is. We think they are free and yet they are confused and lost. They need assistance in knowing they are more than a caregiver. There is more to life than doctors, hospitals and tube feedings. This takes a huge amount of time, even after they address their deep down fatigue. If all bereaved need our understanding and support, these giving souls need all the more. I can only imagine their sense of loss because of the people I have cared for physically for only a short period of time just as I only imagine the apostles’ sense of loss as Jesus ascended into heaven.

I pray that as the angels supported the disciples, that there are angels surrounding these caregivers, through their friends and families, to support them in their loss and adjustment to a new kind of life. May they always know they are not alone in their grief.

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Topics: feast-day, The Ascension

Smooth Sailing

Smooth Sailing: focusing on the destination rather than the obstaclesMy husband and I were biking recently. I enjoy biking but don’t do it often enough to be steady so it doesn’t take much for me to fall.

My husband bikes all the time so as we proceeded, he would yell back to me, “Be careful of the hole in the road.” Or, “Watch out for the post” or anything he thought could cause me to fall. My problem was that as soon as I saw an obstacle, I would keep my eye on it and for sure I hit or almost hit it.

It became very clear to me after nine miles of biking that if I didn’t want to hit an obstacle, I had to focus intently on where I did want to go rather than where I didn’t. This is easier said than done since my fear of falling always made me focus on the obstacle. There was lots of time to practice and by the end of the ride, I was getting pretty good. What’s more, my spirits were so lifted knowing that I actually had more control than I thought.

I try to remember this in everyday life. There are so many obstacles in everything we want to do.  We try to get to a meeting in a timely way but the traffic is a problem. We want to go to dinner but someone turns up sick. We want to go on a trip but just don’t have the money. It becomes almost like a game at times (when I’m not going crazy with frustration) to find the good in each situation. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a lesson in everything. I know too that I want to be a good person and live a grateful life. My goal is to just keep focused on the things to be grateful for. There will still be problems but I might just find a better way around the obstacles.

Please understand that this is a learning curve where just when I think I’m doing well, I fail miserably.  But I can remember the feel of that bike trip when I went from fear to having a sense of competence as I realized my control of the bike was all about focus and then it was smooth sailing.

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Topics: gratitude, inspiration, Life struggles

Creative Pause

Butterfly waiting in chrysalisParts of this great country are already deep into summer but here in Vermont spring always takes it’s time.

Sure, the forsythia bushes have been gorgeous and now the tulips and daffodils are in wonderful displays wherever you go … but we gardeners are anxious and eager to get into the business of planting. It’s safe to plant some things, like pansies and lettuce but the serious flowers and veggies must wait. Though it may get into the 70’s during the day … the nights still dip into the 30’s.

This is a period of intense anticipation. We have hope for the flowers, the veggies, and the days in the sun, trips kayaking or swimming. But this is a time of waiting, not forever but long enough to feel the intensity of hope and new life bursting at the seams.

Sometimes I’m biting at the bit to go somewhere, do something or even to wait for a dark night to pass knowing that the time will come … but in my spirit I’m already well on my way, hardly willing to wait for reality to catch up with me.

There is a song about a butterfly and how the writer found a chrysalis and the butterfly was just beginning to break through. He warmed it up with his breath to assist the butterfly but in the end, its wings were not strong enough to fly. It needed the pushing and forcing the chrysalis open in order to strengthen its wings.

It’s important to learn from these creative pauses. I need to learn to tolerate the hope and expectations while doing nothing else but experiencing the intensity of waiting versus doing. Even this is a way of bearing fruit; one that is especially difficult at this time of year.

We must learn to tolerate hope, not pushing since we cannot force time to pass. May we appreciate the feeling of new life forming before we are too busy doing for us to understand the value of waiting.

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Topics: hope, inspiration, spring

Concelebrating With His Eminence

Cardinal Francis Arinze and Father John Phalen, CSC, concelebrate mass in Florida.On a recent trip to Naples, Florida I had the opportunity to concelebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist with His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria. A very friendly follower of the Lord, the Cardinal was very cordial and recalled giving his testimony about the holiness and practice of the virtues of Servant of God Patrick Peyton, C.S.C, many years before.

When these two giants were talking to each other, the Cardinal, then a Bishop, made a passing reference to someone who had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. Father Pat’s eyes widened and he was visibly delighted to hear of this. “You could so easily tell that closeness to Our Lady was a very important matter to Father Peyton. You could see where his heart was!” said the Cardinal.

It was refreshing to be in the presence of an African Cardinal considered papabile (one who may be elected Pope) in the last two papal conclaves. He was 32 years old when first made a Bishop, the youngest Bishop in the world at that time. He is Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He has been outstanding in his achievements in inter-faith relations. He was given an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by Ave Maria Law School.

How humbling to be at the altar with a Churchman of such dignity and accomplishments who is so friendly as a brother priest.

 

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Topics: father-peyton, mass

"Ever Had One of Those Days....?"

IMG01013-20130430-1242
Sometimes it's the simple but frustrating parts of our day that teach us the best.

Forgetting your keys when you're running late--a cell phone that loses a call--or a tangled mess of a mircophone line discovered two minutes before Mass.

Everyone of these-- plus all of your own-- remind us of how we're constantly in need of God--just to cope with the simple--never mind the complicated stuff of life.

But, as I re-learned while untangling that mess--it's also a chance to ask God for help, to re-group, and to laugh at how easily we're derailed--no matter how complex the technology around us.

Jesus offers us His Wisdom, Love, and Peace each and every day....someday's it takes our own stumbling-- to stop and realize just how much we need Him.

So if you've had one of those days....think of it this way: it may have been just what you needed to untangle some bigger things in life while you wrestled with the simple.

God bless, 

Fr. David

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Topics: prayer, patience, wisdom, technology, jesus, cell-phones, Family Rosary, peace, frustration, microphones, mass

Mother’s Day

prayers_for_birthmothers
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, I’m so aware of the unknown mothers for whom this day is difficult. Not only am I thinking of mothers who lost infants at birth through miscarriage or stillbirth but also for those mothers who have decided to abort their child and now live with the guilt and self-recrimination.

Most of all, I’m particularly aware of those mothers who were brave enough, due to unfortunate circumstances, to give their child up for adoption. We must always remember that this is a heart wrenching decision. Any mother who carries a child for 9 months in her body, certainly has an attachment to her baby. To be able to sacrifice that attachment so that the child is able to have a more stable and/or happy life has to be lauded. Also, in this day and age when abortion is a real option, she must be supported for giving the infant life.

We must be aware that these mothers never stop wondering about how their child has done. Are they happy, will they forgive her for giving them away? And there is a longing to see the child even for a moment to know that they made the right decision.

Many times we are totally unaware of who these mothers are. They go to our churches, we meet them in the grocery stores, and we work with them … all the time never knowing.

So, for all you birthmothers, today we pray for you and for your children. And we pray that someday you may be reunited, whether in this life or the next. May you know and remember that the love sacrifice you offered was for their good and for a better future.

For those who have received these blessed children, please let them know that you have benefited from a supreme and difficult sacrifice of their birth mother. May you together pray for her.

Every child needs to know they were loved and wanted from the very beginning and that their birthmother loved them so much they gave them to your family out of love.

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Topics: prayer, family, adoption

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