Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Getting Ready for Lent

On the website, I have posted a couple of articles that are Lenten and Easter related:

The Essential Message of Easter

Book Review and Author Interview on "Lent: An Uncommon Love Story



This article on "Getting Ready for Lent" was forwarded to me by Janet Cassidy and I thought that I would share it with you:



Here comes Lent, like it or not!

Does your anxiety increase the closer we get to Lent, anticipating the pressures of self-deprivation?

Or, are you in the minority who look forward to Lent with the recognition that you need it?

As a word of comfort if you happen to be in the first group, keep in mind that Lent is about conversion. Self-denial is a part of that experience of conversion, but it’s not the only part. When we give something up, that helps us grow stronger through self-discipline. But, our Lenten experience is really three-fold:

Conversion in relation to ourselves through fasting.
Conversion in relation to God through prayer.
Conversion in relation to others through almsgiving.

If we focus only (or mostly) on self-denial, we may not be fully experiencing Lent!

Are you looking forward to Lent? May your joy come from a desire for a lasting, deeper connection to God and others—not simply a self-improvement plan.

Let’s take some time in the next couple of days to pray and consider what we can offer to God by way of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

With a heart full of gratitude and a sincere desire for conversion, may He lead us into the desert and renew us by His love.

God Bless!

Janet

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The Martha Rules

I know that given this blog is about spirituality, you are likely to think from the title that this is about Martha from the Bible, but no, the title actually refers to Martha Stewart. (Although Martha in the Bible was known for her domestic skills so it just might be something in the name.) I just read her book "The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as you Start, Build, or Manage a Business." I enjoy reading business books because I do run a business, albeit a small one, and I am always looking for new ideas. I also admire Martha Stewart because she was able to take an incredibly negative experience (prison time) and turn it into something positive. She bonded with her fellow prisoners. This book actually came out of that experience, because her fellow inmates came to her and asked for advice on how to start their own businesses.

In "The Martha Rules," she provides solid business advice, much of which can be found in other business books. What sets her apart though is her total respect for her customers, her commitment to quality, and her desire to make the world a more beautiful place.

While I can (and certainly try) to incorporate many of these ideas into my Spiritual Woman website, some just aren't applicable. For example, I definitely believe in quality - I try to pick what I feel are the best articles to help women on their spiritual journey. When I write articles or blog entries, I take pride in my work and try to put my very best out there. But while Martha Stewart works at making our physical world beautiful (which is indeed important), I work at helping women have beautiful souls, and souls belong to God. Any good that I may accomplish, any lives that I may touch, is through the grace of God. I'm not looking for there ever to be a "Patrice MacArthur" brand because it is not about me.

I also don't really feel like I am in competition with anyone. All of us who write on spirituality or work to help bring people to God are really working for the same team. I don't feel like some are better than others. I think different writers speak to different people at different stages of their lives. How could there ever be too many workers in the vineyard?

So, I will stick with my mission of helping women to live extraordinary lives rooted in God, and leave the rest in God's hands. I will most likely never have Martha Stewart's influence, but perhaps I will help some people deepen their relationship with God. That has a reward that can't be measured in stock options.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Works in Progress

I am a home improvement veteran. My husband and I spent seven years working on a fixer-upper. I have completely redone a kitchen and a bathroom, installed subfloor, vinyl tile, ceiling tile, etc. I don't think that there was a spot in that home that wasn't updated in some way. Thankfully, we now live in a new home where such major renovations are not necessary. In this home, all changes are cosmetic. Right now I'm wallpapering my sons' room. No matter the size of the project, however, one constant remains. In the middle of the effort, it is going to look like crap!

It is difficult to be caught in that in-between stage when something isn't what it was and not yet what it will be. It can be hard to find beauty in a ceiling that has been stripped down to its studs or a room that is only half painted. If doing these projects on your own an hour at a time, this in-between stage can last a very long time. Yet, with a little vision, you can almost see the beauty that will come.

So it is with us as well. When we are going through difficult periods of transition, it can be very challenging to see the finished product, even in our mind. We may not even have any idea what the outcome may be! Yet, we know God is the master fixer-upper. He can take our raw materials and turn them into something amazing. That means, however, that we have to go through that yucky in-between period. When caught in that half-finished state, it is important to recognize the beauty of our potential, and have confidence in the craftsman doing the work. With time and trust, God will reveal all that we are meant to be. Be patient. God isn't finished with us yet!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lenten Items

It is hard to believe that Ash Wednesday is this coming week. Make this year's journey especially meaningful with a devotional from our Religious Giftshop.

The Virtue of Perseverance

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who have persevered. James 5: 10-11

Perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances can be very challenging, indeed. It is hard to know when to keep plugging along and when to cut your losses in order to move on to something new. In such cases, often the best thing to do is pray "thy will be done" and stay in place until some sign comes of the next move.

I am not one who believes that one should never quit. There are definitely times when quitting is the best course of action. Often, in order to get a greater good, you need to give up something. However, one should never quit when it comes to doing something that you feel the Lord has called you to do. Saint's lives are full of stories of people who faced seemingly insurmountable odds but who stuck with their mission, nonetheless. We should aim to be like them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Lord is My Shepherd

The Psalm for today is Psalm 23, one of those passages from scripture that we tend to just gloss over because it is so familiar. Today, I invite you to read it slowly, reflect on it, and bask in the Lord's love.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff that give me courage.

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cultivating Humility

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. Mark 9:35

Scripture and the Saints agree, to seek the Kingdom of God, we must become the least of all. We need to think of others first and be always ready to serve. That is such a radical message in our world (and perhaps even in Jesus' 1st century world as well). We are constantly barraged with messages to improve ourselves, to make ourselves more important. We are told that the person with the corner office or the movie star making millions is more important that anyone else. Those with money have privilege.

What do we value in our own lives? Who do we value? Those are questions well worth dwelling on.

Monday, February 20, 2006

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner. Are you searching for the perfect Irish-themed gift or do you perhaps want to know more about this saint. Check out our new Religious Giftshop for great gift ideas.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

How to Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

I have posted How to Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet on my website. This is a prayer to intercede for Jesus' mercy. It is particularly useful to pray for someone who is dying, but can be prayed at any time.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Working on Patience

People tell me I am a patient person, and generally that is true. I have no real problem with waiting in line, feel no need to rush somewhere, and am willing to play "Chutes and Ladders" or draw Cookie Monster over and over and over again for my children. There are times however, when my long rope of patience does indeed reach its end.

My children (ages 4 1/2 and 3) seem to be particularly adept at pushing my buttons to their absolute limit. When they refuse to cooperate, even after a warning and a punishment has been doled out, my blood pressure starts to rise. When my older son does not want to even try to write his name or tie his shoes (2 skills he is supposed to know before starting kindergarten in September), and instead repeatedly responds to my requests by throwing himself on the ground, I want to cry. When my younger son, who is so close to being potty-trained, stands right next to me and poops in his pants instead of saying "Mommy, I need to go potty!" I want to scream. When all of these things happen in the space of an hour, forget it, my patience has left the building.

I vowed many years ago never to spank my children, and thusfar have kept that promise. My goodness, however, I understand the urge. I know what it is to be so angry, so frustrated, so at a loss for options. But as I keep telling my own children that hitting is not how we deal with anger, so, too, I have to tell myself. As I tell them to count to ten or go to sit by themselves, sometimes I have to put myself on a time-out as well. I breathe deeply, try to regain some perspective. I generally repeat "Hail Mary, Queen of Peace, calm me" until I regain my composure. It's Ok for my children to know that I am not pleased with them, and indeed they do. But they also need to know that mommy stays in control, that the loss of patience is only temporary.

After a particularly rough day, I confess that I look forward to their bedtime with such anticipation! I know that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. I give them hugs and tell them I love them. They always look so peaceful when they are sleeping. "Dear Lord, please give me patience." Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Divine Mercy

As I have mentioned, I have been reading the Diary of Saint Faustina. This book was recommended to me by my mother. My mother isn't much of a reader due to eye issues but she likes to watch EWTN on TV a great deal and has learned much about the Divine Mercy chaplet and novena. I had heard of it and even went to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in nearby Stockbridge, MA when I was a child, but admittedly knew very little about it, so I told her I would see if I could find the book. I am so glad I did.

When I first picked up this book, I thought, "There is no way I am going to get through this book!" It is 700 pages long and as I have mentioned, I am spending most of my evenings working on the Signs-etc. website for my boss. But amazingly, I have read 500 pages of this book this week. I find it hard to put down. It is absolutely amazing and life-changing. In some respects, her writing reminds me of that of St. Therese in Story of a Soul, but she was more of a mystic like Teresa of Avila. Saint Faustina was graced by direct communication with Jesus and was directed to keep a diary of her spiritual progress by her superiors and spiritual director. To read the words Jesus spoke to her are incredible. To hear of how much sin pains him and how much he wants to pour out his mercy upon those who seek it really makes you reevaluate your life.

It is also inspirational to read of the strengths and weaknesses of even a great soul. She had her moments of despair and frustration with the Lord, just as we all do. She questioned whether her visions were illusions. She suffered under confessors who did not understand and the slow rate of progress in carrying out what Jesus asked her to do. She also suffered from great physical pain.

While most of us are not called by Jesus in the same way Saint Faustina was, we are all called by God to live out our own potential, to do his will, to stay away from sin and to seek his mercy when we fail. We are also called to pray for others, both living and deceased, all of whom are part of the Communion of Saints.

I strongly recommend this book. It will change your outlook on life and death.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!



There are moments when motherhood is very challenging. But when your little boys come up to you with a handmade Valentine's Day card, throw their arms around you and say "I love you, Mommy!" it really makes it all worth it!

Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy it with someone you love!

Reflecting on Love

In this time when love is being celebrated all around us, I came across this passage in Saint M. Faustina Kowalski's Diary:

Pure love is capable of great deeds, and it is not broken by difficulty or adversity. As it remains strong in the midst of great difficulties, so too it perseveres in the toilsome and drab life of each day. It knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love - love, and always love.

Love in the real world is messy. Love means service, and compromise, and cleaning up the poop (both figuritively and literally!) But in that service, we also serve God. Love brings out the best in us. It is one of God's greatest gifts and we are so right to celebrate it!


Sunday, February 12, 2006

The importance of today

I've begun reading the Diary of Saint M. Faustina Kowalski who the Lord entrusted with beginning the Divine Mercy devotions. (Divine Mercy Sunday is the Sunday after Easter). I'll post more information as we get closer to the day. However, as I began her diary, I came across this passage which I thought was very relevant for all of us:

When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me,
As the future may never enter my soul at all.

It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.

O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of your ominpotence.

And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering you each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater glory.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Marveling at God's Creation

I always wonder at those who battle evolution vs. intelligent design. I've never seen the two as mutually exclusive. God created the world and evolution is the means God chose to use. Creation is such a marvelous thing. As we explore it, we get a tiny glimpse into the mind of God.

A friend of mine sent me the following which just goes to show how amazing God's creation really is:

Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida has created a very
interesting page. It begins as a view of the Milky Way Galaxy viewed from a
distance of 10 million light years, and then zooms in toward Earth in powers
of ten. Ten million, to one million, to 100,000 light years until you
finally reach a large Oak tree in Florida. If ever there was a witness to
creation, these folks have captured it for our viewing pleasure!

Once you Click on the site, the software does all the work. You can play it
forward and backward to be amazed over and over. At the end it says
AUTO.... Click on that and review the process in reverse. I hope you enjoy
this. It shows God's handiwork.

http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/powersof10/index.html

Friday, February 10, 2006

Our own Olympic stories

As I write this, the opening games of the Olympics are on in the background. I love the Olympics. The talent and beauty of the athletes is amazing to watch. What really grabs me, though, are the personal stories of the athletes. I love to hear about their dedication, the adversity they had to overcome, and what it took for them to get there. Human stories are the most poignant.

And so it is with us. We each have our own story. We may never make it to a national or international stage. We may go through life virtually anonymous yet our lives matter, our stories matter. Every day, we get up and write a new page in our lives. Make it the best it can be!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Touch of Grace

Cheryl Richardson - www.CherylRichardson.com has started selling packs of "grace cards." They are very beautiful and have inspirational messages on them. The idea is that you hand them out to people - leave one with your tip at the restaurant, put one on a co-worker's desk, etc., basically handing out random acts of grace. If you visit her website you can click where it says "A Touch of Grace" and this will lead you through to a card selected randomly for you. Try it out. Who among us couldn't use a little grace to help us make it through the day?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Keeping a Dream Alive

Sometimes it can be discouraging to pursue a dream, wait for it to bear fruit, and wait and wait and then there is nothing. Recently, I came across this passage in Fr. Paul Keenan's "Heartstorming: The Way to a Purposeful Life" which gave me some comfort. I hope it may help you as well in whatever dream you may be pursuing.

Obviously, dreams have somthing to do with results. If you have a dream, you want to see it bear fruit. As I've been saying, a dream propels you into passionate action, and what you want from action is results. That's only natural. But what if you let absence of results kill your dream? What if, during those years when I struggles to raise the money to put "As You Think" on the air, I had given up? There were times when there was no money at all, only promises and hopes. Many times, I wanted to quit. I continued because at some level I knew there had to be more than the results, more than the number of dollars I had in the foundation. That something more was the dream. The dream stirs the heart. It touches the mind and helps it to see possibilities for overcoming limits.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Website Updates

Here are some new articles on the Spiritual Woman website:

With Valentine's Day next week, I thought this article on the History of Valentine's Day was perfect!

Also, check out Inspirational Thoughts on Creating Your Dream Career

and 5 Ways to Enrich Your Child's Conscience

And for those of you just itching for Spring, in our Creativity section, we have How to Create a Herb Garden"

We are only here on a journey

Today in Living Faith Fr. James McKarns spoke about how we are a "pilgrim people." We are put on this earth for only a little while and during the journey we never quite feel at home because we aren't. This was never meant to be our permanent resting place - We come from God and are meant to return to God.

I'm sure you have seen the bumper sticker "Whoever dies with the most toys wins!" Of course, such a statement is absurd. It is not like you can take it with you. Yet we spend so much time worrying about our possessions. When you are going on a trip, it is best to pack lightly. So it is with life. Pack lightly, live simply, and enjoy the journey back to our creator in heaven.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Simple Prayer

Diana Duff of the Ministry of the Deaf here in the Diocese of Springfield (MA) was kind enough to visit my 4th grade CCD class today. Our class has been working on learning how to say "The Our Father" in Sign Language as a class project. Diana came in and did a wonderful introduction to Sign Language, as well as helped to make sure that we were on the right track with the "Our Father" project as the other teacher and I are both neophytes in the world of sign language as well.

She had us begin by signing a simple prayer:

Jesus, I love you.
I thank you.
I'm sorry.
Please help me.
Jesus, I love you.
Amen.

What a wonderful prayer - it combines praise, thanksgiving, contrition, and petition in such a simple way. Sometimes we can get so caught up with the words of our prayers. This was beautiful, both in its simplicity and in the way it was signed.

Many thanks to Diana for blessing our class today. For more information on the Ministry for the Deaf, you can email cathdeafmin@juno.com or call (413)592-4071.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ten Things God Won't Ask

This was forwarded to me by a friend today. It is a quick powerpoint presentation on "Ten Things God Won't Ask" when we face him at the end of our lives. It is very good. Take a moment to download it:

Ten Things God Won't Ask

The Quest for Health and Healing

This was sent to me by Ralph Ferraro, a colleague and friend of mine. I've read his book - it is very interesting for those looking for an overview of alternative healing techniques.

THE QUEST FOR HEALTH AND HEALING

The Italian American Press is offering readers a free informative text providing a step-by-step guide to health and wellness through holistic living. A primer for those interested in healing, The Quest examines the research and findings relevant to spiritual healing as well as advocating an agenda of prayer, visualization, and meditation for those who wish to experience health and wellness. The Quest encourages one to develop, support, and maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit by awakening and experiencing God's loving energy, a healing power fully capable of transforming illness and disease into health and wellness. A review in a The Wanderer, a leading Catholic publication, refers to The Quest as "...a brightly polished gem of both intellectual and spiritual enlightenment."

The Quest is available to the public free of charge in order to familiarize readers with the benefits of spiritual healing as well as to promote a greater awareness of the vital role that religion/spirituality plays in achieving and maintaining health and wellness. Readers are requested to visit www.italianamericanpress.com to read or download a free copy of this instructive e-book written by Raphael (Ralph) Ferraro, an Italian American author and educator.

Best wishes,
Ralph Ferraro, Director
The Italian American Press
Where New Books Are Launched

Thursday, February 02, 2006

We Interrupt This Program . . .

Thank you so much for reading my blog and visiting my website Spiritual Woman. I love having you as readers!

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Support this Site


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Now back to our regular programming . . .

The Days that try a Mom's Soul

When Isaac was 2, there were days when we swore that those blond curls of his actually hid horns. There were times when you could almost see the good angel and the bad angel on his shoulders duking it out to see what course of action he would take. Often, the bad angel won. Children test limits. That is part of their job. They want to see exactly how far they can go before somebody stops them and what the consequences will be of their actions. The truth is that they actually want limits. Of course they also want some self-determination also. With time, patience, and alot of time-outs, they eventually get the idea that perhaps listening to Mommy and Daddy is a good idea.

Now, I will take a three year old over a two year old any day of the week, but Isaac still does have his moments when he is determined to get into a battle of wills. He is cuddly and cute and lovable, but there are times when those horns still make an appearance. (Sometimes, we actually tell him to put his horns back in. Usually, he will pull up his curls and say, "No, I want them out!") Tonight we engaged in one of those battles of will. He was tired and angry and frustrated, which still did not make it OK that he was absolutely refusing to listen and insisted on hitting everything in sight (including his mother!). After two time-outs and his losing 10 minutes of computer time tomorrow (his absolute favorite activity) and having another of his favorite toys put on time-out, he finally calmed down. Another battle won. Another step in helping him learn self-control. Another day in the world of being a mommy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Month for "Dear Hearts"

I can't believe it is February already. Here it is, a month dedicated to affairs of the heart. I've been reading "Heartstorming: The Way to a Purposeful Life" by Father Paul Keenan. In one of his chapters, he speaks about "dear hearts," those people who come into our lives for a time and change us forever. One of the phenomenons of human relationships is that as far as here on earth, they are firmly rooted in time. They have a beginning and an end. Friendships and loves change as people grow and develop. Family members pass away. Space and distance separate us. Yet, there are those relationships that involve an eternal dimension. If they are lucky, spouses connect at a level that transcends the mundane. You run into an old friend and find that you are still able to talk the night away. High-school sweethearts reunite as senior citizens and reignite an old flame that never went away. True love (in its many forms) does indeed last forever. Thank God for all the dear hearts who have touched your life and contributed to who you are today.