Another Viewpoint

pregnancyWhen Joseph realized Mary was pregnant he wasn’t sure what to do. The angel assured him that he should take Mary as his wife but what would this birth mean? How was he to father this holy child?

For years I prepared first time pregnant couples to have their infants baptized.

Although it should have been obvious, it took time for me to realize that the pregnancy was not all about the mother.

In our programs we asked each parent to write down their feelings and concerns regarding the child about to be born. Then they were to share these with their spouses. After a while the couples were free to share with the group. Each couple found they had completely different concerns.

Moms were worried about the birth, their parents and their bodies. They also feared they would not really be able to care for the child, and would their husbands be able to share the responsibilities.

Dads were concerned about finances; how would they make it while mom was out of work, and would they be able to pay for childcare. They also feared their wife would be so involved with the child that they would be forgotten. Already everything was about the mom and they more or less played second or perhaps third fiddle.

It’s nice to hear couples today saying, “We’re pregnant!” It makes it even more obvious that this is the creation of a new entity … a family.

The mother shows in every way that a new life is on the way … but let’s remember that each child has a father with his own feelings and concerns.

May couples be able to honestly share their individual concerns with each other and establish this as a habit. May grandparents also be attuned to their need to support the couple relationship just as much as they support the new infant.

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Treasured Gifts

st-andre-bessette

Grandparents are a true treasure.

In my case, I had a grandmother who brought 12 children of her own into this world!

She taught neighborhood children the catechism and the prayers needed to prepare for First Communion in addition to teaching her own children.

She collected statues of saints. My grandfather once said he was ashamed of getting undressed in his own bedroom in front of all the saints' images she had accumulated!

Among my grandmother’s favorites was Brother André Bessette, C.S.C. , the Miracle Worker of Mount Royal.

Thank God for grandparents who pass on the faith and love with such grace!

Keep the focus on faith and love during this holy season. Don’t forget to check out our new Advent and Christmas web app daily. It’s our special gift for you and your family.

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Topics: Advent, Christmas, saints, family

One Who is Truly Free

Feast-day-Immaculate-Conception-Mary

 

What would it be like to be free? 

I don´t mean the cheap kind of freedom they try to sell us - to be able to do anything you want anytime - but rather to be really free:

  • To enter relationships and make decisions without the baggage we all carry that mostly comes from our pride and insecurity.
  • To be able to love others without counting the cost and expecting return, knowing that this is what makes us really happy, not our possessions.

  • To be so open to God´s presence that you know that His love is all around you, so, no matter what, you don´t have to be anxious and afraid.

What is this like? Look at Mary Immaculate.

We tend to have a reduced idea of the Immaculate Conception, thinking it refers in the first place to Mary´s purity and chastity. That is important, but our vision needs to be much bigger.

Christians have always seen in Mary the greatest model of holiness after Christ Himself. So important has this been that it took a long time to find a way to express this well. The dogma was defined for the whole Church only in 1854, but the belief in that Mary was totally “full of grace” has been part of our belief since God Himself called her so, through the mouth of the Angel Gabriel.

We believe that she was saved by Christ, as are you and I, but in her case, she was conceived sinless and spared even effects of original sin that plague the rest of us. Then, she never sinned. Thus, finally one person would be able to respond to God´s total YES, His gift of Himself, with another total YES and so the Word would be made flesh in her. 

THAT is true freedom - to be able to choose what is good and beautiful! Further hers was a whole life in that freedom to the point that Christ made her our mother too who can help us to be free also, in very real ways.

Holy and Beautiful Mother Mary, Full of Grace, help us to love freely, help us to live in freedom.

 

 

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Topics: Mary, freedom, feast-day

Reaching Out

support-during-difficult-time

Through her own dogged determination and commitment to her studies in high school, Lily received several scholarships for a prestigious college. She was the first in her family to attend college and her parents could see her promising future.

When she returned for her second year and found herself pregnant she was understandingly overwhelmed. She grew up in a staunchly Catholic family and had no doubt that even though it would be difficult, her parents would support her during the pregnancy. She knew the college made no provision for students in her situation.

Though it was painful, she explained the situation to her parents when she went home for Christmas. What an utter shock it was that they wanted her to have an abortion.

She grew up knowing her family supported life. She never doubted she would have the baby. Her parents felt that for the good of her future, she must continue college or lose her scholarship. In their minds, there was no alternative.

In Lily’s mind, she was between a rock and a hard place. She had figured she would only have to miss one semester and she could give the child up for adoption. Her parents not only would not support her decision, they made an appointment for her to have an abortion and took her to the site.

Lily felt she had no choice in the matter.

When Mary heard the news of her pregnancy, she was off to visit Elizabeth whom she knew would understand the momentousness of her gift and provide the support she needed. This was not true in Lily’s case.

The unforeseen ramifications for this family, unfortunately, were that Lily could not recover from her parent’s decision nor from the abortion. She quit college and became somewhat of a lost soul and estranged from her family. It took her years to find her place and voice again.

May each of us be more open and welcoming to those who need love and support during difficult times. May more colleges who profess life, make provisions for single parents on the campuses so girls aren’t forced into such decisions.

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Topics: support, Mary, the visitation

The Unexpected News

THE_NEWS-1When Mary woke up this particular morning, being pregnant was most likely the last thing on her mind. And then the Angel came…

In this day when so many people are actually planning to start a family, we must surely be cognizant of how many women suddenly become aware of an unexpected pregnancy. So many times this news is not welcomed. A pregnancy and an infant will change the life of a woman, married or not.

Decisions must be made and among these decisions a woman must face might just be the decision to abort the child. We must understand and appreciate the fact that society has made this choice apparently quite simple. Yet there is nothing simple about keeping a baby or not. It’s important to remember that women making these decisions are not evil and are going through a tremendous amount of turmoil.

Though we believe abortion is not an acceptable alternative, we need to respect the fact that the decision is, for the most part, not made callously.

How much support is a woman given? What are her fears? What is she envisioning? In our materialistic and throw-away culture, how much do we actually support life in all its forms?

So, as Mary accepted the mission to become Mother, may we remember all the newly pregnant around us. Let us offer prayer and support to them. May we not just encourage them to have the baby but continue to offer support as the infant is born and grows. May we fight for social conditions which are more inviting to new life. And may we pray every day for those who suffer with their decisions without being judgmental.

 

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Topics: Mary, family, The Annunciation

A Most Unusual Holy Site

map-Bethlehem-Milk-Grotto

 

One of the most unusual sites to visit in the Holy Land has to be the Milk Grotto of the Virgin Mary. This little Church commemorates the cave where the Holy Family stopped on the Flight into Egypt.

The tradition has it that Mary stopped to nurse the child and accidentally spilled some milk on the stones which immediately turned milk white in color and remain milky white to this day.

Coming from a family of twelve, I know that eleven of the twelve were nursed at the breast by my mother. She was too ill to nurse my brother, Octave, at the time of his birth.

This cave reminded me of the maternal care that only women in their special tenderness can give us. It also reminds me of the maternal care that Mary has for all her children entrusted to her by Jesus at the foot of the Cross. 

Have you ever visited the Milk Grotto of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem?

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Topics: Mary, inspiration, holy-land

The Common Bond of a Special Devotion to Saint Joseph

stained-glass-window-saint-Andre-Bessette-3The late Mayor Tom Menino and Saint Brother André Bessette , C.S.C. had something in common. A devotion to Saint Joseph. Brother André said, “Go to Joseph! He is a powerful friend in heaven!” Mayor Menino prayed the Prayer to Saint Joseph for Families every day.

Prayer to Saint Joseph for Families
Joseph, strengthen in our family every bond of love which unites us—the marriage bond, the love of parent and child, the bond of mutual love among us all.
Joseph, protect our family from every danger from without and from every threat to peace, unity and harmony within.
Joseph, teach us to be kind and loving to one another, careful for one another, tolerant of one another, forgiving towards one another.
Joseph, may contentment with our lot and joy in each other abound in our house, as we seek faithfully to serve and greatly love God.
Joseph, be yourself a father to our family and pray Mary be a mother to us. Amen.
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Topics: St-Brother-Andre, St-Joseph, prayer, family

How Are You?

waiting-in-doctors-officeThis week I was in the waiting room of a doctor’s office while accompanying friends to their appointments. I had my iPad with me so I could keep myself occupied.

While I was playing some games and checking Facebook, I would frequently hear the nurse come out and call someone’s name. Then the nurse would say, How are you today? Everyone responded fine, great, OK or awesome.

After some time of listening to this taking place with various people, I began to chuckle. Everyone in the waiting room had some sort of issue or they would not be there! You could hear them cough, sneeze, complain to their companion of this pain or that hurt. The conversations were all centered on their health. But when the nurse came out and greeted them, everyone said fine, great, OK or awesome.

This got me thinking about how we respond to people when they ask us, How are you? Often times we say, Fine. But when we honestly respond, it is amazing how we catch others off guard and they don’t always know how to respond to an honest answer!

It is worth trying this out with others. “So how are you?” “Not so well today.” And we find the other person responding, “Oh that’s great!” This happens because we are conditioned to respond in a certain way.

Communication happens all the time. Sometimes it is positive and sometimes it is negative. The important part of communication is our ability to listen to others and not anticipate their response. Sometimes we are conditioned to hear an answer because of who the person is and we do not allow the words of the other person to sink in.

All this pondering about the question - how are you? - got me thinking about how we approach God in prayer. We don’t want to seem like we are complaining all the time but we can find ourselves saying, Lord, please help me with this person as she is trying my patience. Or, God why is this or that happening to me right now in my life?

During this season of thanksgiving, let us pause and listen to the responses of others and of God in our lives. May we be more attentive to the question, How are you? And may we be more attentive to how we respond this to question. Communication is about both speaking and listening.

Have you ever given this any thought? Please share your experiences and insights about this with us.

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Topics: prayer, inspiration, communication

Reflections on All Souls

time-to-seek-or-give-forgiveness-1For many years I phoned my grandmother faithfully every Sunday night unless I was on the road and then I would let her know that I wouldn’t be able to call. We both enjoyed these calls.

One Sunday, for a number of reasons which made sense at the time, I didn’t call her and hadn’t warned her. At 7:30 the next morning I received a call that Grandma had died during the night. Of course I felt so miserable that I hadn’t called and could picture her waiting to hear from me. There was no way to fix this.

During this month as we focus on those who died, I think it’s important to remember that the deceased have simply moved on before us. They are not gone forever, rather they are just not physically present to us.

It is not unreasonable then to realize that there is no reason we can’t continue to talk with our loved ones. Not only are we able to ask their forgiveness for the things we suffer remorse but we are also able to forgive them. Whenever I say this, I feel people shudder. “How could I forgive the dead? There is really something wrong with me that I continue to feel angry or upset.” Yet we know we do carry such grievances. It just seems more difficult to resolve them with the dead … yet it is vitally important that we do so.

Hanging on to these grievances do not hurt the deceased, they hurt us. They invade other relationships making us less trusting, or leading us to hold back in loving and/or growing.

So, whether we need to seek or give forgiveness, let us focus on the conversations we must finish with those who are gone from this world. Speaking from the heart we can move on to a different and healthier relationship with them until we meet again. Perhaps now is the time.

When I talked to my Grandma about not calling and other slights I imagined, I found myself comforted in my spirit by her closeness and love. May this be true for all.

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Topics: death, forgiveness, feast days

The Family of Jesus

family-at-Shrine-Our-Lady-of-Guadalupe-Mexico

Pope Francis has said: "Still today some say: 'Christ yes, the Church no.' Like those who say, 'I believe in God but not in priests.' But it is the Church herself which brings Christ to us and which brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God's children. The Church is the family of Jesus."

There are many families that love Christ, love the Church and are great models of the domestic church. This beautiful family is clearly an example of a strong domestic church living Father Peyton’s well-known phrase, the family that prays together stays together. They were at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and graciously allowed me to photograph them last November. Pictured here … living, travelling and praying together … are their grandfather, mother and father, and all the children who were praying at the shrine.

 

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Topics: Our-Lady-of-Guadalupe, Pope-Francis, family

Autumn Leaves

Gods-gift-autumn

The grandeur of God is reflected in the stunning
beauty of autumn leaves of oaks, maples, chestnuts, birches and hawthorns. Near the end of the season here in New England, leaves reach their peak of splendor.

“Old age is the seat of life’s wisdom. The old have acquired the wisdom that comes from having journeyed through life, like the old man Simeon, the old prophetess Anna in the temple. And that wisdom enabled them to recognize Jesus. Let us pass on that wisdom to the young: like good wine that improves with age.” Pope Francis.

In our throwaway culture we can forget that the time of tranquility and prayer, the time of grandparents, is like the leaves at the end of the season, filled with the radiance, the beauty and the splendor of God’s grandeur. Cherish, love and listen to the wisdom of the elderly! They are God’s gift to us all.

 

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Topics: aging, inspiration, Pope-Francis, autumn

Shadow of her Former Self

eyes-of-heart-be-enlightened.jpgWeek after week as I sit with my hospice patient, a lady goes walking by the window. She always makes it three times around the complex while I’m visiting.

In the winter she wore a mad bomber hat and thick boots. Each step was slow and deliberate. She did not want to fall. This summer she wore jogging shorts and a tank top, her dyed black hair tied up in a pony tail.

She takes long strides; head up and with the mission of a woman of thirty but she is an easy 80 and only a shadow of her former self.

It’s almost amusing. If she were 30, no one would think anything of it but at her age, it’s puzzling that she dresses this way.

My 92 year old grandmother used to say, “How did I get to be this age? I don’t feel old.” I could presume my jogging star might say the very same thing.

When I was in my 40s it seemed a common question was, “Are you dressing your age?” I don’t hear anyone asking that question now. It’s just as well. When I was 40 I couldn’t imagine what was appropriate since I didn’t feel a day over 20.

I’ve been amused by this lady, puzzled, sympathetic and of course judgmental since I think she is not dressing her age. I’ve been so busy looking at the externals that I’ve missed the obvious. She is at 80, trouping along as if she were 30!!! Now that is something to think about, to praise, to commend, to take her example to heart and to remember that not only are we as young as we feel, our spirits can continue to bloom and praise God regardless of our ages. It is His Shadow that we rest in, His light that continues to shine through us at any age.

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Topics: aging, inspiration

Evangelization and Family Life

There are exciting and interesting events taking place in Rome over the next two weeks.

Pope Francis opened the Synod on the Family with a Mass on Sunday, October 5th, at the Vatican Basilica. He and the Bishops/Cardinals are gathering to meet with representatives of families from all over the world.

Holy FamilyThese meetings will give all participating an opportunity to reflect, pray and discuss what families are encountering in all aspects of life today. We, here at Holy Cross Family Ministries, are watching the Synod deliberations closely. We believe very strongly that the family that prays together stays together, a message our founder, Servant of God Patrick Peyton, C.S.C, made known throughout the world many years ago.

Today, in our world, in our society and in our Church, the spiritual well-being of families is being attacked by violence, poverty, abuses and the lack of faith and belief in God. Father Peyton’s message is still very important and inspiring for us today.

During these next two weeks I invite you to join us at the Father Peyton Center when we gather to pray the Rosary at 11:30 am and Mass at noon each day, Monday through Friday.

If you are not able to join us in person, I invite you to submit your prayer intention for the Synod and for families on our website so we can pray together.

If you are interested in following the meetings and receiving daily highlights from the Synod, I invite you to visit Salt and Light TV and click on Synod.

Please join us in our prayer that Servant of God Patrick Peyton and Mary guide those present at the Synod … that the sacred gift of family life may be strengthened through this experience … and that all families grow in their love for the Lord and each other.

And may God bless your family!

Watch this video to learn more about what a synod is and how it works:
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z8h7ap2jrQ

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Topics: prayer, the-family-that-prays-together-stays-together, Synod on the Family

October 7: Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

Feast-of-Our-Lady-of-the-Rosary.jpg
Millions and millions of us, all over the world, have known the love of God and the power of prayer with Our Mother Mary through her Holy Rosary. So we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to contemplate how the Rosary is a chosen school of prayer of the Church and the world in moments of great challenge.

The prayer of the Rosary had become very popular over previous centuries and in 1569 Pope Saint Pius V gave it official approval in a form close to how we pray it to this day. As a Dominican Friar he himself had a great love of this prayer.

Many popes since Saint Pius V have expressed their great love of the Rosary and called the Church to pray it every day and especially in times of trial. Among those Popes who have really loved the Rosary, Pope Francis is certainly high on the list! Let us now, Rosary in hand, join him in his CAMPAIGN OF PRAYER FOR PEACE!

We commend ourselves and our world now TO HIM, through Holy Mary, Mother of the Church. OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY, PRAY FOR US!

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Topics: pope, Mary, rosary, feast days

We are Called to Witness

presentation_at_NCCW2014
The National Council of Catholic Women
met this past week in Grand Rapids, Michigan to focus their attention on how the membership is called to be voices for Catholic Women. The event was energizing and prayerful … with plenty of laughter too.

I am moved to share this experience with others after having participated in this convention.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations thinking, Am I the only one who believes in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and the empowerment of women in our church and world? At times, we can sense that we are alone in our beliefs, thoughts and lived experiences. This was not the case at the NCCW Convention.

The event was highlighted by positive and inspirational speakers such as Teresa Tomeo, host of Catholic Connection, who shared the story of her faith journey through her work in media. She cited many experiences where her faith gave her the courage to be a voice for the faithful, especially a voice for Catholic Women.

All of the workshops, keynotes and homilies from the various bishops who shared the week with us, women_in_prayer_NCCW2014gave us inspiration and confidence to witness our faith to those whom we encounter and to find God in all situations. Their messages were of hope, joy and love of the Lord. As women in the church … as women who are called to nurture … and as women who are involved in generating life all around … this time together deepened our call to be voices of faith, voices of justice, voices of compassion and voices of a loving and gentle God, who desires daily to be a part of our lives.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on this topic with Salt and Light producer Alicia Ambrosio. Check out my interview with Salt and Light TV on Vatican Connections.

What has been your experience of living the faith as a woman in the church? Do you take time to nourish your relationship with God on a daily bases? If so, how? Please let us know. We could all benefit from sharing our ideas about this with one another.

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Topics: inspiration, NCCW, women

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