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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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

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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

September 15: The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

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Cross marking the grave of 200,000 victims of the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti


“Mother Mary, you know what it is to see your Child suffer and die, help my suffering child.” Certainly over the centuries this has been a very common prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows. It was around the 12th century, when the Black Plague took about a third of the population of Europe, when this particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin became very common. In some ways it was a time like our own: "the High Middle Ages", when big steps in knowledge and culture were being taken, was also a precarious time of disease, massive poverty and war.

As people, in their suffering, identified with Mary, the Sorrowful Mother, they also trusted that she can truly do something to help!

Scripture, particularly the Gospel of Saint John, shows us that from the time when she said YES and became the Mother of God, Mary was completely united, heart to heart, with her Son to the point that she shared in His Passion. Finishing the work of Salvation on the Cross, He gave Mary to us to be the Mother of all who believe, the Mother of the New Creation. This is not simply some abstract idea: she IS the Mother of our faith, helping us on the journey, surrounding us with God's love and grace in very concrete ways!

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Sculpture of Mary with the body of Jesus in Le Mans, France

For almost 900 years people have celebrated this feast on September 15, the day after we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This day we renew our awareness and gratitude that the Sorrowful Mother is indeed the Mother of Mercy and the Mediatrix of Grace . She only waits for you to let her in, together with her Divine Son, any day and each day.

Holy Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, we join with you in prayer, remembering all our loved ones, especially those most in need of the Lord's love and healing. Help us to unite ourselves, like you, with Christ on the Cross so as to share in his Resurrection.

Please share your prayers with our worldwide prayer community. Click here for the Family Rosary prayer intentions page. Let us keep one another in prayer.

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Topics: Our-Lady, Devotion

Miracle Man of Montreal

St. André Bessette was known by hundreds of thousands as the Miracle Worker.

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Crutches line the walls of St. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal, Quebec

Alfred Bassette entered the Holy Cross Novitiate and took the name Brother André. He was assigned the role of doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, Quebec. He was given many duties and one was to tend to the needs of those who visited the college.

After a while, many visitors began to experience healings after praying with Brother André. His reputation grew, the crowds increased and more cures were reported.

When people visited with him, he would listen to them and pray with them. He would also take oil from the lamp that illuminated the room and rub it on their sores or areas where they experienced pain. St. André would always encourage people to ask St. Joseph to intercede for them and to ask for healing through St. Joseph.

Brother André’s desire to increase devotion to St. Joseph inspired him to found a shrine dedicated to this favorite saint. Today St. Joseph’s Oratory stands tall on Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec.

Brother André became known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal” and thousands of miraculous healings have been attributed to his intercession over the decades. The walls of St. Joseph’s Oratory are lined with crutches of those who were healed and St. André always gave credit to God and St. Joseph’s intercession as Jesus’ earthly father.

He died on January 6, 1937 and was canonized on October 17, 2010. On that day the Church recognized that God chose a very simple man for a remarkable life of service to the Church.

This coming Sunday, September 14th, people will gather to pray the Rosary and to celebrate a Mass of Healing at St. Joseph’s Chapel in North Easton, MA. There will be the opportunity to view the relic of St. André and to be anointed with St. Joseph’s oil.

All are welcome to attend this very special event.

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Topics: saints, mass, Brother André

Epithets

wondering-about-epithet

The other night my husband and I were out to dinner with another couple. While we were waiting to be served, my dear friend Pat said, “I was on my way to my meeting but I got a late start.” I turned to her and said (as only true friends can say), “That will have to be your epithet, ‘I got a late start.’” She burst out laughing.

We laughed so hard our husbands stopped their conversation to hear what was going on.

Then she asked what mine would be. I said it would have to be, “I’m not finished yet” since that seemed to be a theme of mine throughout life, especially each night at bedtime. We joked about what our husbands’ could be.

How many of us have themes that run through our lives. It’s just a little thing and yet we repeat it over and over in what we say and do. Another friend often says, “We are always being prepared for what we are being prepared for.” And still another is forever saying, “It’s all good!” In themselves these sayings also say something about who we are or our stance toward life.

While at the Notre Dame Summer Retreat last August, Beth Mahoney was describing a paper she recently read. According to this, the original Gospel verse from Luke wasn’t, “Hail Mary, full of Grace” but rather, “Hail, Full of Grace.” The Full of Grace described who she was as a person. This was probably what brought me to thinking about epithets.

What would you be called by an angel coming to greet you? Share it with us. We would be happy to hear your ideas about what your most common saying is.

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Topics: Mary, epithet, Notre Dame Summer Retreat

The Francis Effect

For 17 months we have witnessed and lived the journey with Pope Francis as our leader and guide. It seems no matter where I travel - be it a classroom, parish setting or national organizational meetings - I am constantly asked this question: What do you think of Pope Francis?

This past week I attended the J.S. Paluch Vocations Seminar in Chicago. This gathering was energizing, fruitful and inspiring as we discussed the effects Pope Francis has had on the world. We also discussed his effect on vocations within the church and about the upcoming year on Consecrated Life.

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Father Rosica, CSB

During the session we heard from Father Tom Rosica, CSB, who reminded us of the challenges Pope Francis puts forth: globalization of indifference, challenges and temptations of the Church, making the Gospel message an ideology, functionalism and clericalism, just to name just a few.

Father Rosica explained: “Everything the Pope is doing now is not just an imitation of his patron saint who loved the poor, embraced lepers, charmed sultans, made peace and protected nature. It’s a reflection of the child in Bethlehem who would grow up to become the man of the cross in Jerusalem … the Risen One that no tomb could contain … the man we Christians call savior and Lord. Pope Francis has given us a powerful glimpse into the mind and heart of God.”

We also had the opportunity to view an extraordinary documentary on the life of Pope Francis produced by Sebastian Gomes entitled: The Francis Effect. I highly recommend this film as an educational tool for schools, parishes, families and for anyone who is interested in learning more about this man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Bishop of Rome – Pope Francis.

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Sebastian Gomes

Pope Francis has given us much to think about concerning our daily lives. His simplicity, tenderness, kindness, prayerfulness and his ability to reach the depths of our hearts is such a gift to us. How do you live the “Francis Effect” in your life?

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Topics: Pope-Francis, vocations, movie

Being about the Work of My Father

Notre-Dame-Summer-Retreat-2014

These words were spoken by Jesus to his mother when she found him in the temple. Jesus was sitting amongst the teachers listening to them and asking them questions.

How true is this about us? Are we found in church listening and asking questions after the priest has given a homily?

Jesus’ revealing lesson to us is something that touches all families. It is the struggle between remaining obedient to what God is calling us to live and the expectations of our family members. Oftentimes our parents, spouses, family and friends have thoughts and dreams of what we should be involved in, what path of life we will walk or even what kind of job we should take in the future.

Jesus had this experience too. He had to manage being obedient to his heavenly Father and to his earthly parents (Mary and Joseph). During all of these moments throughout his life, we hear that his mother Mary kept all these things in her heart.

No matter where we find ourselves in life, we are constantly trying to remain faithful to what God is asking of us. The challenge is for us to know how to balance the reality that we live in here on earth while at the same time respond to the call to follow God and listen to him.

The children at the Notre Dame Summer Retreat heard about this from Father John Phalen, C.S.C. when they acted out the gospel of the Sermon on the Mount.

What are some of the obstacles you have faced when making decisions that you believe will help you live the life God is calling you to? How does that fit with your parent’s, spouse’s or friend’s desires for you? How have you reconciled this call to follow Jesus in your everyday life?

 

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Topics: Mary, the-finding-in-the-temple, joyful mysteries

The Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady Celebrated August 15 A Simple Way to Happiness: Following Our Lady

The-Coronation-of-the-Blessed-Virgin-from-Sacred-Heart-Basilica-University-of-Notre-Dame.jpeg-1Believe in the Lord, trust and say “yes” to where He is leading you! This is the simple way to a life of happiness and peace (even in the middle of challenges). This is what our Mother Mary shows us with her life and it is her Assumption into heaven that shows us where a life of grace takes us.

In the early centuries of the Church, theologians began to contemplate the eternal life that the Lord promises to those who live their faith in Him. They soon realized that they could get a glimpse of heaven by reflecting on Mary's extraordinary entrance into it.

In 1954 then Pope Pius XII declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. The Dogma of the Assumption was formally defined just 60 years ago, but it is a very ancient part of our faith. This is a completion of what was begun in her at the moment of her Immaculate Conception. Conceived without sin, she lived a life of total faith and perfect discipleship. Befitting such a beautiful life, at the end of her time on earth, she—the one whose very flesh the Lord Himself shared—was taken body and soul into the fullness of eternal life.

She is the Mother of God and in the Feast of the Assumption we contemplate her beauty. She shares total communion with God, body and soul, in a unique way. Yet in her we see the promise for us all - and the beauty of each person who also tries from his heart to live in faith and discipleship.

Let's let the Holy Spirit come upon us too, so that He can lift us up more and more into a life of communion with God, even as we still walk this earth.

As the early Fathers of the Church contemplated Mary gloriously assumed into heaven, they realized that God did this so that, fully united to Him, she could be fully our Mother of Mercy and our great Intercessor.

Holy Mother help us on our journey into God!  

 

 

 

 

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Topics: feast-day, Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

The Joy of Industry

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While walking along the beach in Narragansett, RI, I observed a child of about 5 years old who was busily digging a hole in the sand.

Off to the side there were two similarly aged children who had just arrived. They hung back, apparently wanting to play too but not familiar with the industrious little boy.

Finally, they walked up and without saying a word, began helping.

Next thing all three of the children went to gather up a bit of ocean to fill the hole. Back and forth they went, running to the water and slowly carrying their filled buckets back. What struck me was that they were just sharing the pure joy of industry.

The scene brought back to mind Robert Frost’s poem, “The Tuft of Flowers”. In this poem the narrator goes from thinking how we all must work alone to understanding that “Men work together … whether they work together or apart.”

Later as we went to dinner I began to ponder how we were working with this waitress even without knowing it. She was serving us so that we were fed while we on the other hand were there to be served so she had a job. It made me appreciate our relationship. We were no different than those children working and playing together.

In so many ways in our everyday world we can see a growing sense of entitlement in people. This is most evident by a lack of gratitude; the expectation that we are only getting what we should receive. This devalues others. We are all in relationship whether we realize it or not. We are interdependent. The joy in this is that we do indeed work together and are able to share in the joy of life and living.

May we realize how much we have to be grateful for from everyone we interact with … and even those we never see.

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Topics: gratitude, joy, inspiration

Lourdes: Learning Prayerful Trust

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I just spent a month at Lourdes, France, serving in the Family Rosary Center we are operating there this summer. Maybe another day I will blog about that mission but today I want to share some personal thoughts about what it has been like to be there … this place which so many people have found to be so extraordinary since Our Lady appeared there to Saint Bernadette in 1858.

Over the years, I have been able to visit the Shrine a number of times and each time I experience a sense of peace that is so palpable you could almost cut it with a knife.

The VIPs there are the sick and the handicapped. It is very moving to see people of all ages, from all over the world, who have given their vacations to come and take care of them. They push wheelchairs, help the sick into the healing spring waters, and attend to their personal needs. They are Mary sharing the Lord's love and grace.

Now, spending four weeks at Lourdes opened me to a deeper experience, still. I was there for a mission that kept me busy … yet I noticed that my mind and heart were being drawn to recall so many friends and situations in the Church and in the world with a simple clarity and the loving attentiveness I often long to attain. It was concern, yet it was not worry! In my heart was a deep sense of trust and deep connection with all.

Grotto_Lourdes

Whatever happens, live in prayerful trust! I sensed somehow that I was being drawn into the Heart of Mary which is the Heart of the Church! Being in Lourdes for a few weeks, I seemed to gracefully be allowed to stay there, seemingly effortlessly, so as to learn this once again and more deeply.

I share the experience of this grace with you so that together we can live something so simple yet so important for our world.

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Topics: prayer, Mary, Lourdes

Even God Rested

If we fail to establish regular practices of stillness and rest, our creativity will either be exhausted or shallow. Our countenance, instead of reflecting a vitality of fresh creative energy that is sustained by the restorative depths of stillness, will be listless or frenetic. Creativity without rest and productivity without renewal leads to exhaustion of our inner resources.

The Book of Creation, J. Phillip Newell

Rest is essential for the spiritual life but also for the creative life and intellectual life, for life itself.

Observing Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments. God himself rested after the creation of the earth. Have you ever noticed how often Jesus mentions rest? He takes it as he slips away early in the morning to pray. He gives it, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28) 

Rest is not simply doing nothing, but ceasing our normal work, stepping outside of normal pressures. It is in these times that we get perspective, not by continuously rehashing our situation, but by allowing the mind and heart time to quietly make connections. 

Remember in the midst of summer activity and work to take time to look up at the clouds, sit by a pool, stroll through a park or pray in quiet corner of the house. 

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Topics: prayer, summer, rest

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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Topics: prayer, summer, rest

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